Unsupervised cluster analysis of clinical and ultrasound features reveals unique gout subtypes: Results from the Egyptian College of Rheumatology (ECR)

Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2023 Dec;17(12):102897. doi: 10.1016/j.dsx.2023.102897. Epub 2023 Nov 11.


Background: Gout comprises a heterogeneous group of disorders; however, comorbidities have been the focus of most efforts to classify disease subgroups.

Objectives: We applied cluster analysis using musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSUS) combined with clinical and laboratory findings in patients with gout to identify disease phenotypes, and differences across clusters were investigated.

Patients and methods: Patients with gout who complied with the ACR/EULAR classification criteria were enrolled in the Egyptian College of Rheumatology (ECR)-MSUS Study Group, a multicenter study. Selected variables included demographic, clinical, and laboratory findings. MSUS scans assessed the bilateral knee and first metatarsophalangeal joints. We performed a K-mean cluster analysis and compared the features of each cluster.

Results: 425 patients, 267 (62.8 %) males, mean age 54.2 ± 10.3 years were included. Three distinct clusters were identified. Cluster 1 (n = 138, 32.5 %) has the lowest burden of the disease and a lower frequency of MSUS characteristics than the other clusters. Cluster 2 (n = 140, 32.9 %) was mostly women, with a low rate of urate-lowering treatment (ULT). Cluster 3 (n = 147, 34.6 %) has the highest disease burden and the greatest proportion of comorbidities. Significant MSUS variations were found between clusters 2 and 3: joint effusion (p < 0.0001; highest: cluster 3), power Doppler signal (p < 0.0001; highest: clusters 2), and aggregates of crystal deposition (p < 0.0001; highest: cluster 3).

Conclusion: Cluster analysis using MSUS findings identified three gout subgroups. People with more MSUS features were more likely to receive ULT. Treatment should be tailored according to the cluster and MSUS features.

Keywords: Cluster analysis; Gout; Machine learning; Musculoskeletal ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Egypt
  • Female
  • Gout* / diagnostic imaging
  • Gout* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rheumatology* / methods
  • Ultrasonography