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Objective: To assess the clinical characteristics of gout and its diagnostic approach in a group of Italian patients. Methods: In a retrospective analysis, we evaluated 72 consecutive gouty patients examined in the years 2000-2007.We recorded demographic data, family history, comorbidities and disease characteristics (seasonality of the attacks, joints affected, serum uric acid concentration, and treatment). Result: 63/72 (87.5%) patients were men and 9 women, with mean age 61.9±13.7 years. 8/72 (11.1%) patients reported a familial history of gout. The first attack occurred mainly in the months of June, July and December. The first metatarsophalangeal joint was affected in 59.7% of patients and the hand in 25%. Treatment changed over the follow- up period, with a decreased use of NSAIDs (p<0.0001) and an increased use of colchicine (p=0.015) and allopurinol (p<0.0001). In 9 (12.5%) patients, joint aspiration was performed and monosodium urate crystals were found in synovial fluid or tophi. 42/72 (58.3%) patients fulfilled a minimum of 6 clinical criteria of the American College of Rheumatology, necessary for gout diagnosis. 47/72 (65.3%) patients, met the EULAR recommendations and had an 82% probability of being affected by gout. Conclusions: The diagnosis of gout is not always easy because of its changing clinical spectrum. Identification of MSU crystals in joint aspirates was obtained only in a minority of patients. In this setting the diagnosis with gout was often based on the observation of an acute intermittent monoarthritis involving mainly the first metatarsophlangeal joint, associated with hyperuricaemia and responsive to colchicine.
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