The most important differential diagnoses of acute monoarticular arthritis are septic arthritis and acute gout attack. Identifying infection is crucial in preventing the devastating outcome of septic arthritis. The delta neutrophil index (DNI) is a value that corresponds to the fraction of circulating immature granulocytes. As DNI reflects the burden of infection, we evaluated this index as a differentiating marker between septic arthritis and acute gout attack.
The medical records of 149 patients with septic arthritis and 194 patients with acute gout attack were reviewed. A specific cell analyzer, ADVIA 2120, was used to measure DNI. Clinical and laboratory markers associated with predicting septic arthritis were assessed by using logistic regression.
Patients with septic arthritis showed higher levels of DNI than those with acute gout attack (3.3 vs 0.6%, P < .001). Similar results were observed in patients without monosodium urate (MSU) crystal confirmation or those with normouricemia (3.3 vs 0.5 and 3.1 vs 0.7%, respectively; P < .001 for both). A DNI level of 1.9% was determined as the cutoff value for predicting septic arthritis. In the multivariate analysis, DNI was the most powerful independent value for predicting septic arthritis (odds ratio 14.003).
This study showed the possibility of using DNI as a differentiating marker between septic arthritis and acute gout attack at the crucial early phase. DNI showed its relevance regardless of confirmation of MSU crystal deposition or serum level of uric acid.