Critical Cases - Concomitant Gout and Septic Arthritis!


  • 50 yo male with hx of gout on intermittent allopurinol, htn, CKD, and mechanical AVR on warfarin presents with one week of pain/swelling over the right third PIP joint
  • There is no history of trauma
  • Pt denies fevers

Physical Exam

T 98.6  BP 157/98   HR 62  RR 16  Pox 97%

  • Right hand third PIP joint marked edema, erythema, warmth, and tenderness to palpation
  • Severe pain on ROM of joint

Plain Film Right Hand


  • Soft tissue swelling and joint erosions at 3rd PIP joint


Differential Diagnosis

  • The differential diagnosis for monoarticular inflammatory arthritis is narrow, principally gout/psuedogout versus infectious arthritis
  • It is also possible for both gout and joint infection to co-exist!



  • Arthrocentesis of the joint was performed with aspiration of 1 ml frankly purulent material
  • Gram stain of aspirate was negative
  • Fluid positive for monosodium urate crystals
  • The aspirate was unable to be analyzed for cell count due to increased viscosity of fluid
  • Hand surgery consulted who admitted patient for I&D and washout of the affected joint


Teaching Points

  • A septic joint can develop in a joint affected by gout, and patients are at increased risk for infection due to chronic damage to the joint
  • The incidence of concomitant septic joint in patients with a gout flare is estimated to be 1.5-5%
  • A monoarticular arthritis in patients with a history of gout cannot be assumed to be an acute gout flare alone!
  • Definitive diagnosis requires a positive culture of synovial fluid aspirate


For further reading:

Panicker VN, Turner JK and Chehade MJ. Concomitant Septic Arthritis and Tophaceous Gout of the Knee Managed with Intermittent Closed Joint Irrigation Combined with Negative Pressure Therapy: A Case Study and Literature Review. Open Orthop J 2014; 8: 482-487.