Logo American Journal of Case Reports

Call: 1.631.629.4328
Mon-Fri 10 am - 2 pm EST

Contact Us

Logo American Journal of Case Reports Logo American Journal of Case Reports Logo American Journal of Case Reports

20 September 2021: Articles  Brazil

Gout Storm

Unusual clinical course, Challenging differential diagnosis

Danilo Martins1ABCDEF, Carolina Rodrigues Tonon1ABCDEF, Rafael Lopes Pacca1B, Natanye Lemes Matchil1ABEF, Luiz Antonio Jorge Junior1B, Dênis Silva Queiroz2B, Filipe Welson Leal Pereira1ABCDEF, Alana Maia Silva1B, Vinicius Padovese1B, Marcelo Padovani de Toledo Moraes3E, Daniel Luiz da Silva3E, Vinicius Cardoso Nóbrega3E, Emilio Carlos Curcelli2ABCDEF, Marina Politi Okoshi1ABCDEFG*

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.932683

Am J Case Rep 2021; 22:e932683



BACKGROUND: Gout is a chronic disease characterized by deposition of monosodium urate crystals, typically manifesting as arthritis. Clinical presentation of gout usually results from activation of local inflammatory response. Despite being one of the oldest diseases in the world, gout pathophysiology is incompletely understood and clinical features are still surprising. Recent reports describe unusual manifestations including atypical joints involvement, tenosynovitis, panniculitis, and multinodular inguinal swelling. Another atypical feature is the acute polyarticular gout with severe systemic inflammatory response.

CASE REPORT: We report the case of a 55-year-old man presenting with fever, tachycardia, cauda equina syndrome, left-knee arthritis, and systemic inflammatory manifestations. Lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging showed a 4.0×1.3×2.2 cm calcified mass inside the vertebral canal at the L4-L5 level, causing stenosis of the dural space and intervertebral foramen. Clinical diagnoses were septic knee arthritis and lumbar spine meningioma. Despite antibiotic therapy and left-knee surgical drainage, fever and increased C-reactive protein persisted, and arthritis developed in the elbows and right knee. As cultures were negatives, we then diagnosed gout flare in the affected joints accompanied by a severe systemic inflammatory reaction. A few days after starting colchicine and anti-inflammatory drugs, symptoms and inflammatory markers subsided. It was such a severe attack that we called it a “gout storm”.

CONCLUSIONS: The report highlights the difficulty in diagnosing acute polyarticular gout affecting atypical joints, particularly when faced with a severe systemic inflammatory reaction.

Keywords: Cauda equina syndrome, Diagnosis, gout, Colchicine, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Symptom Flare Up, Uric Acid


Gout is characterized by acute and chronic joint inflammation in response to monosodium urate crystal deposition, most commonly affecting the first metatarsophalangeal joint, knees, ankles, wrists, and hand joints [1,2]. Gout is one of oldest diseases in the world, first recognized by the Egyptians in 2640 BC [3]. Despite this long knowledge, gout pathophysiology is incompletely understood and clinical features are still surprising [4–8]. Acute manifestations are caused by immune reaction to the monosodium urate crystals that damage tissues surrounding the joints. Innate immune cells such as monocytes, macrophages, mast cells, and neutrophils are involved in the pathogenesis of acute gout inflammation [9]. Recent case reports in the literature have described unusual gout manifestations including tenosynovitis, panniculitis, multinodular inguinal swelling, and involvement of atypical joints [4–6,8,10–12]. We report the case of a patient presenting with a polyarticular gout attack affecting the knees, elbows, and lumbar spine, with intense systemic inflammatory manifestations simulating infection with systemic inflammatory response syndrome.

In this case, as in several reports from literature [8,12,13], the patient was primarily managed for infection. Therefore, we would like to highlight to internist physicians the possibility of this clinical presentation of acute gout, which reminded us of a “gout storm”.

Case Report

A 55-year-old man presented to our hospital with a 5-day history of low back pain with lower-limbs paresthesia, gait impairment, and fecal and urinary incontinence. In the last 2 days, he also had fever and left-knee arthritis. His medical history included hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, and gout, characterized by inflammation crises involving his first right metatarsophalangeal joint and both knees since 2013. The patient had been taking enalapril, metformin, simvastatin, and insulin. Allopurinol was interrupted by the patient some months ago. There was no history of recent trauma, infection, or neoplastic disease.

Physical examination showed a temperature of 38°C, heart rate 118 bpm, left-knee arthritis, grade IV reduction in left leg muscle strength, anesthesia in the left foot, and hypoesthesia in both lower limbs. No gout tophus was observed in physical examination. The remainder of physical examination was unremarkable. Laboratory evaluation revealed hemoglobin 13.5 g/dL (reference range for men 13.5–17.5 g/dL), white cell count 14 100/mm3 (10 039/mm3 neutrophils, 1424/mm3 monocytes, and 2200/mm3 lymphocytes), and creatinine 1.1 mg/dL (reference range 0.8–1.5 mg/dL), with an estimated glomerular filtration rate of 75 mL/min/1.73 m2 according to the CKD-EPI formula, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) 65 mm/h (reference < 15 mm/h), C-reactive protein (CRP) 19.8 mg/L (reference <1 mg/dL), and uric acid 5.0 mg/dL (reference 3.5–8.5 mg/dL). His medical record showed a serum uric acid concentration dated 2016 of 11.5 mg/dL.

A non-contrasted computed tomography (CT) scan showed a heterogeneous calcified epidural mass compressing and displacing posterolateraly the dural sac (Figure 1). Lumbar spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed an extensively calcified lesion measuring 4.0×1.3×2.2 cm located inside the vertebral canal at the L4–L5 level, causing stenosis of the dural space and intervertebral foramen and compressing the receptive descending and emerging roots (Figure 2). Ultrasonography of the left knee revealed thick fluid and echogenic debris with an estimated volume of 16 cm3 located at the left suprapatellar bursa extending to the lateral and medial surfaces of the knee. Initially, the main clinical diagnoses were septic knee arthritis and lumbar spine meningioma. The patient received intravenous ciprofloxacin and clindamycin and was subjected to left-knee surgical drainage, producing a thick brown liquid. Cultures from blood and knee fluid collected before antibiotic therapy and knee tissue fragment were negative.

In spite of receiving antibiotics, the patient persisted with fever, fatigue, malaise, and elevated inflammatory markers. A few days later, arthritis developed in both elbows and the right knee. Left elbow arthrocentesis revealed a thick yellow synovial fluid with 1700 leukocytes/mm3 and 96% segmented cells. Crystals were observed at microscopic evaluation; unfortunately, it was not possible to examine arthrocentesis fluid under polarized light. Right elbow arthrocentesis showed citrine yellow synovial fluid with no leukocytes. Both synovial fluid cultures were negative. Ultrasonography of the right knee revealed a heterogeneous image next to the patellar tendon measuring 2.6×1.2 cm, which might correspond to a gouty tophus.

After observing synovial crystals and excluding infection, antibiotics were discontinued and gout treatment was initiated with colchicine, 0.5 mg twice a day, anti-inflammatory drugs, and finally the xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol. Fever, general health status, and CRP levels improved significantly a few days later, and the polyarthritis quickly resolved; neurological changes persisted. One month after hospitalization, laboratory tests revealed leukocytes of 9300/mm3, CRP 3.7 mg/dL, and creatinine 0.7 mg/dL.

The patient was then subjected to incisional removal of the spinal mass and lumbar spine arthrodesis. The spine mass had a hard consistency, which at this point reinforced our diagnosis of gout tophus. Histopathological examination showed tissue fragments with mononuclear inflammatory infiltrate and partially calcified acellular material with giant cells surrounding the amorphous crystalline material, compatible with a gout tophus (Figure 3). Unfortunately, pathology analysis could not show uric acid crystals as the surgical specimen was fixed in formalin, which causes dissolution of uric acid crystals [14,15]. The patient was discharged after improvements in lower-limb paresthesia and left-limb muscle force and remission of fecal and urinary incontinence. Twelve days after surgery, he returned to our hospital presenting mental confusion, surgical site infection, and suture dehiscence. He underwent surgical debridement and wound washing. Surgical site and blood cultures revealed Klebsiella pneumoniae; surgical tissue fragment and wound secretion growth cultures revealed Staphylococcus aureus. Despite clinical treatment, the patient developed refractory septic shock and died 1 week later.


This patient had 2 important clinical features: the polyarticular involvement of joints, including an atypical joint, the spine, and a severe systemic inflammatory reaction, similar to that seen in sepsis. Despite his previous gout, the current history and physical examination pointed to left-knee infectious arthritis in a patient with a spinal tumor. Only after the involvement of both elbows and the right knee was gout flare diagnosed. The fact that a very severe attack of gout involving an atypical joint occurred in a patient with no gout tophus makes this a rare case. Although not previously used in the literature, the term “gout storm” appeared appropriate to define these serious clinical and laboratorial manifestations. Some reports from the literature reinforce the dilemma in diagnosing acute polyarticular gout or spinal gout to explain the whole clinical picture at the time of presentation [6–8,12].

Although gout physiopathology is not completely understood, it is recognized that monosodium urate crystals deposition in the synovium induce direct cytotoxicity, inflammation, and cell necrosis. Furthermore, synovium release of reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species enhances the inflammatory process [16]. Activated immune cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor, and cyclo-oxygenase [9]. Monosodium urate crystals also activate the NLRP3 inflamma-some, which leads to caspase-1-dependent cleavage of pro-interleukin (IL)-1β, thereby triggering mature IL-1β release and enhancing the inflammatory response [16]. We assume that, in this case, the inflammatory response hyperactivation was triggered by the polyarticular involvement.

Several triggers for gout attacks have been described [1]. The only precipitating factor we could find in this case was a slight renal function impairment. However, it was not possible to establish whether worsening renal function was a precipitating factor or followed an acute attack, which could have impaired oral ingestion and led to dehydration.

This case emphasizes the importance of cytological examination of synovial fluid, which is often mistaken for a purulent exudate of septic arthritis. Even though fever, neutrophilia, and raised inflammatory markers are common in acute gout [8,11,17–19], their presence guides physicians toward a diagnosis of bacterial infection. CRP, ESR, and procalcitonin at high levels as observed in infectious disease have been described during acute gout attacks and chronic gout [17,18,20,21]. A severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome simulating sepsis has also been observed in acute polyarticular gout [22] and immediately after spinal surgery for axial gout [14]. On left-knee ultra-sound, our findings of thick fluid and echogenic debris have low specificity and accuracy for diagnosing gout, but a double contour sign and articular tophus have a high specificity for gout diagnosis [23].

Spinal tophaceous gout is not a common finding. In most cases in the literature, a diagnosis of spinal tophi was not initially suspected [7,17,18,24,25]. The most common clinical presentation was back and neck pain, followed by neurological impairment. The main anatomical site was the lumbar spine [17]. The imaging tests most often performed are MRI and CT. In a review on spine gout, 96.6% of CT scans were abnormal, with 18.6% of scans interpreted as a high probability of tophaceous gout [18]. MRI is the most commonly used method to analyze spinal lesions; in a review on spine gout, 98.9% of the cases had abnormal MRI. However, scans were read as a gouty or tophaceous lesion only in 21% of the patients [18]. As in our case, gouty tophi usually appear as a hypointense mass on T1- and/or T2-weight MRI [24].

The treatment of gout involves drugs to reduce inflammation in the acute phase, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucocorticoids, and colchicine, and drugs to lower uric acid levels and prevent acute flare. NSAIDs inhibit production of cyclo-oxygenase; glucocorticoids inhibit transcription of inflammatory genes, and colchicine blocks activity of the NLRP3 inflammasome [26]. Recent studies have shown that IL-1 antagonists can be used in gout flare. The xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol is the first line treatment and uricosuric agents are the second-line treatment for chronic gout [27]. The urate oxidase pegloticase can be used in refractory cases [27]. Treatment for spinal tophi depends on the clinical picture [19]. Although medical treatment may be sufficient, neurological impairment warrants surgical intervention [7,17,18]. In many cases, surgery was performed to assess suspected epidural abscess or spinal mass [13]. As drugs failed to decrease spinal symptoms, our patient was subjected to spinal decompression, which was initially successful. Unfortunately, postoperative surgical site infection led to patient death.


This report highlights the difficulty in diagnosing acute polyarticular gout affecting an atypical joint, particularly when faced with a severe systemic inflammatory reaction. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of properly controlling serum uric acid concentration to prevent acute gout flare. Treatment should also include avoidance of risk factors for gout development, flare management, and healthy lifestyle.


1.. Dalbeth N, Merriman TR, Stamp LK, Gout: Lancet, 2016; 388; 2039-52

2.. Towiwat P, Chhana A, Dalbeth N, The anatomical pathology of gout: A systematic literature review: BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 2019; 20; 140

3.. Nuki G, Simkin PA, A concise history of gout and hyperuricemia and their treatment: Arthritis Res Ther, 2006; 8; S1

4.. Gaviria JL, Ortega VG, Gaona J, Unusual dermatological manifestations of gout: Review of literature and a case report: Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open, 2015; 3; e445

5.. Goel N, Khanna V, Jain DK, Gouty tophi presenting as multinodular lateral inguinal swelling: A case report: Diagn Cytopathol, 2018; 46; 801-3

6.. Kester C, Wallace MT, Jelinek J, Gouty involvement of the patella and extensor mechanism of the knee mimicking aggressive neoplasm. A case series: Skeletal Radiol, 2018; 47; 865-69

7.. Ahmad I, Tejada JG, Spinal gout: A great mimicker. A case report and literature review: Neuroradiol J, 2012; 25; 621-25

8.. Mirzoyev S, Anavekar N, Gout, have we met before? No, not like this: J Gen Intern Med, 2006; 21; C5-7

9.. Chen J, Wu M, Yang J, The immunological basis in the pathogenesis of gout: Iran J Immunol, 2017; 14; 90-98

10.. Pirker IFJ, Rein P, von Kempis J, Important differential diagnosis in acute tenosynovitis: BMJ Case Rep, 2019; 12; bcr2018228373

11.. Willner N, Monoranu CM, Stetter C, Gout tophus on an intradural fascicle: A case description: Eur Spine J, 2016; 25; 162-66

12.. Goh CL, Lai FYX, Chee A, Back pain and fever: When the diagnosis becomes crystal clear: Intern Med J, 2018; 48; 480-81

13.. Wan SA, Teh CL, Jobli AT, A rare cause of back pain and radiculopathy – spinal tophi: A case report: J Med Case Rep, 2019; 13; 8

14.. Gago R, Vila S, Velez-Rivera J, Severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome immediately after spinal surgery in a patient with axial gout: BMJ Case Rep, 2018; 2018; bcr2017222474

15.. Cheng CW, Nguyen QT, Zhou H, Tophaceous gout of the cervical and thoracic spine with concomitant epidural infection: AME Case Rep, 2018; 2; 35

16.. Desai J, Steiger S, Anders H-J, Molecular pathophysiology of gout: Trends Mol Med, 2017; 23; 756-68

17.. Elgafy H, Liu X, Herron J, Spinal gout: A review with case illustration: World J Orthop, 2016; 7; 766-75

18.. Toprover M, Krasnokutsky S, Pillinger MH, Gout in the spine: Imaging, diagnosis, and outcomes: Curr Rheumatol Rep, 2015; 17; 70

19.. Ng W, Sin CH, Wong CH, Unusual presentation of spinal gout: 2 cases report and literature review: J Orthop Case Rep, 2017; 7; 50-54

20.. Abhishek A, Roddy E, Doherty M, Gout – a guide for the general and acute physicians: Clin Med, 2017; 17; 54-59

21.. Zhang J, Zhao C, Wu T, Procalcitonin may not be a differential diagnostic marker for bacterial infection in febrile patients with chronic gouty arthritis: J Int Med Res, 2018; 46; 4197-206

22.. Nicholls DW, Rajapakse CNA, Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) from acute polyarticular gout: N Z Med J, 1999; 112; 434-35

23.. Christiansen SN, Ostergaard M, Slot O, Ultrasound for the diagnosis of gout-the value of gout lesions as defined by the outcome measures in rheumatology ultrasound group: Rheumatology, 2021; 60; 239-49

24.. Cunha PR, Peliz AJ, Barbosa M, Tophaceous gout of the lumbar spine mimicking a spinal meningioma: Eur Spine J, 2018; 27; 815-19

25.. Mishra R, Panigrahi VP, Adsul N, Tophaceous gout in thoracic spine mimicking meningioma: A case report and literature review: Surg Neurol Int, 2020; 11; 364

26.. So AK, Martinon F, Inflammation in gout: Mechanisms and therapeutic targets: Nat Rev Rheumatol, 2017; 13; 639-47

27.. Engel B, Just J, Bleckwenn M, Treatment options for gout: Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2017; 114; 215-22

In Press

Case report  Kosovo

A 74-Year-Old Man with Severe Comorbidities and Successful Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair with Thoracic S...

Am J Case Rep In Press; DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.943702  


Case report  Vietnam

Fibrous Dysplasia of the Parietal Bone with Focal Motor Seizures: A Case Report

Am J Case Rep In Press; DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.943718  


Case report  Saudi Arabia

Regenerative Endodontic Procedure on an Immature Necrotic Molar: A Case Report with a 5-Year Review

Am J Case Rep In Press; DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.944179  

Case report  Italy

Minimally Invasive Surgical Management of Chronic Cough-Induced Rib Fracture Non-Union: A Case Report

Am J Case Rep In Press; DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.943222  

Most Viewed Current Articles

07 Mar 2024 : Case report  USA 38,492

Neurocysticercosis Presenting as Migraine in the United States

DOI :10.12659/AJCR.943133

Am J Case Rep 2024; 25:e943133


10 Jan 2022 : Case report  Germany 31,145

A Report on the First 7 Sequential Patients Treated Within the C-Reactive Protein Apheresis in COVID (CACOV...

DOI :10.12659/AJCR.935263

Am J Case Rep 2022; 23:e935263

19 Jul 2022 : Case report  Saudi Arabia 17,755

Atlantoaxial Subluxation Secondary to SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Rare Orthopedic Complication from COVID-19

DOI :10.12659/AJCR.936128

Am J Case Rep 2022; 23:e936128

23 Feb 2022 : Case report  USA 17,769

Penile Necrosis Associated with Local Intravenous Injection of Cocaine

DOI :10.12659/AJCR.935250

Am J Case Rep 2022; 23:e935250

Your Privacy

We use cookies to ensure the functionality of our website, to personalize content and advertising, to provide social media features, and to analyze our traffic. If you allow us to do so, we also inform our social media, advertising and analysis partners about your use of our website, You can decise for yourself which categories you you want to deny or allow. Please note that based on your settings not all functionalities of the site are available. View our privacy policy.

American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923
American Journal of Case Reports eISSN: 1941-5923