II. Epidemiology

  1. Incidence: 2-10 per 100,000 cases/year of Monoarticular Arthritis in the Emergency Department
  2. Age
    1. Bimodal distribution peaks <15 years old and over 55 years old
    2. Young children <18-24 months are more susceptible to Septic Arthritis
      1. Bridging veins between metaphysis and epiphysis allow spread of infection to joint
      2. Bridging veins close after age 18-24 months

III. Causes

  1. See Septic Joint Causes
  2. Staphylococcus (including MRSA) and Streptococcus are most common causes of Septic Joint

IV. Risk Factors

  1. No risk factor present in up to 22% of cases
  2. Systemic comorbidity
    1. Immunosuppression
    2. HIV Infection
    3. Diabetes Mellitus
    4. Intravenous drug use (unusual joints affected)
    5. Alcoholism
    6. Sickle Cell Anemia
    7. Elderly patients over age 80 years old
  3. Joint disorders (47% of cases have previously deranged affected joint)
    1. Rheumatoid Arthritis (14% of cases)
      1. Higher mortality risk with immunosuppressants (TNF agents, Systemic Corticosteroids)
      2. TNF agents predispose atypical and virulent infections (e.g. Salmonella, Actinobacillus, Listeria)
    2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    3. Prosthetic Hip Joint
    4. Prosthetic Knee Joint
    5. Joint surgery
  4. Overlying skin disruption
    1. Skin Infection such as Cellulitis (especially cutaneous ulcers)
    2. Large vein catheterization (unusual joints affected)
  5. Kaandorp (1995) Arthritis Rheum 38:1819-25 [PubMed]

V. Pathophysiology

  1. Hematologic seeding in most cases from Occult Bacteremia
    1. Once joint seeding occurs, infection progresses rapidly
    2. Joint is susceptable to hematogenous spread
      1. Synovial lining lacking a protective basement membrane
    3. Sources
      1. Pneumonia
      2. Skin or soft tissue infection
      3. Pyelonephritis
  2. Other causes of joint infection (uncommon to rare)
    1. Trauma
    2. IV Drug Abuse
    3. Iatrogenic Infection (e.g. Joint Injection, very uncommon cause)

VI. Precautions

  1. Septic Arthritis has a high inpatient mortality (approaches 15%)
  2. Examination is unreliable in ruling out Septic Arthritis
    1. Poor reliability in distinguishing from Gouty Arthritis
    2. Crystals in Synovial Fluid does not exclude Septic Joint (actually increases its risk)
  3. Lab testing (outside of Joint Aspiration) is unreliable
    1. No lab value outside of Joint Fluid examination excludes Septic Joint
  4. Joint infection leads to rapid joint destruction
    1. Inflammatory reaction directly associated with infection
    2. Intra-articular pressure with secondary vascular compromise
  5. Gout or Pseudogout exacerbation does NOT exclude Septic Arthritis
    1. Septic Arthritis occurs concurrent with gout or Pseudogout in 1.5% of cases

VII. Differential Diagnosis

VIII. History

  1. Fever (<60% of cases)
  2. Recent joint surgery
  3. Pain with joint range of motion
  4. Reduced ability to ambulate on affected joint (e.g. hip)
  5. Sexually Transmitted Disease exposures or history (especially Gonorrhea)

IX. Symptoms: Presentations in newborns

  1. Fever only present in 24-50% of cases
  2. Ill appearance
  3. Decreased use of the affected extremity

X. Findings: Signs and symptoms

  1. Rapid onset monoarticular joint inflammation
    1. Joint Pain with motion (Test Sensitivity 100%, but poor Specificity)
    2. Joint Swelling
    3. Joint warmth (unreliable)
    4. Joint erythema
    5. Significantly decreased joint range of motion
    6. Significantly decreased weight bearing on infected joints
    7. Limb paralysis from inflammatory neuritis
    8. Joint with overlying Cellulitis (significantly increased risk of Septic Joint)
  2. Joints affected in Bacterial Infection
    1. Septic Arthritis is polyarticular in 10-20% of cases (evaluate for endocarditis when multiple joints involved)
    2. Septic Knee (40-50% of cases)
    3. Septic Hip (15-20% of cases, especially in young children)
    4. Septic Shoulder (10-15% of cases, although some studies list 5%)
    5. Septic Ankle (6-9% of cases)
    6. Septic Wrist (5-8% of cases)
    7. Septic Elbow (3-8% of cases)
  3. Joints affected with Intravenous Drug Abuse
    1. Sacroiliac joint
    2. Sternoclavicular joint
    3. Symphysis Pubis
    4. Vertebral disc spaces

XI. Labs: General

  1. Precaution
    1. Arthrocentesis is the only accurate method to exclude Septic Arthritis
    2. None of these labs (CBC, ESR nor CRP) absolutely excludes Septic Arthritis at any level
      1. These labs may all be normal or even low despite Septic Arthritis
      2. Lab markers are useful as baseline to follow response to therapy
  2. Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
    1. ESR typically > 25 mm/hour in pediatric Septic Arthritis
  3. C-Reactive Protein (C-RP)
    1. C-RP typically >20 mg/L in pediatric Septic Arthritis
    2. Closely mirrors infectious, inflammatory process
    3. Test Sensitivity: 95% in children
  4. Complete Blood Count
    1. WBC Count typically >12,000 in pediatric Septic Arthritis
  5. Other tests in severe cases or as directed by history
    1. Blood Culture
      1. Bacteremia is present in up to one third of cases of Septic Arthritis
    2. Complete Metabolic Panel
      1. Typically obtained in severe Septic Arthritis, to establish end-organ injury, Renal Dosing of antibiotics
      2. May also evaluate Pseudogout
    3. Uric Acid
      1. Evaluate for gout in differential diagnosis
    4. STD Testing
      1. Gonorrhea (PCR from Urethra or Cervix, or Throat Culture)
      2. Syphilis

XII. Labs: Synovial Fluid Exam via Arthrocentesis

  1. Synovial Fluid Testing
    1. Synovial Fluid White Blood Cell Count
      1. Non-inflammatory Arthritis: 200-2000 White Blood Cells
      2. Inflammatory Arthritis: 2000 to 50,000 White Blood Cells
      3. Infectious Arthritis: >50,000 White Blood Cells
        1. However Exercise caution, as Septic Arthritis may occur at lower WBC Counts
    2. Synovial FluidGram Stain
      1. Falsely negative in 20-40% of Septic Arthritis patients
    3. Synovial Fluid culture
      1. Imperative to obtain (Gram Stain alone is insufficient)
      2. Best inoculated into Blood Culture medium (less contamination, better yield than solid plating)
    4. Synovial Fluid Crystal Exam
      1. Evaluates for the alternative, inflammatory Arthritis (e.g. gout, Pseudogout)
    5. Avoid Joint FluidGlucose and protein (not useful)
  2. Bacterial Arthritis
    1. Opaque to turbid Synovial Fluid
    2. Synovial Fluid WBC
      1. Non-prosthetic joint: >50,000 White Blood Cells (or >90% PMNs)
        1. Likelihood Ratio: 4.7 for Septic Arthritis
      2. Prosthetic joint: >1700 White Blood Cells per mm3 (or >65% PMNs)
    3. Gram Stain
      1. Test Sensitivity: 29-60%
    4. Bacterial Culture
      1. Test Sensitivity: 30-50% (75% if polyarticular)
      2. Guides antibiotic therapy when positive
    5. Synovial lactate
      1. Synovial lactate >10 mmol/L has a very high Likelihood Ratio for Septic Arthritis (rules in Septic Arthritis)
  3. Gonococcal Arthritis
    1. Clear to opaque Synovial Fluid
    2. Synovial Fluid WBC: 30,000 to 100,000 (>80% PMNs)
    3. Gram Stain Positive in <25% of cases
    4. Culture positive in <50% of cases
  4. Tuberculous Arthritis
    1. Opaque Synovial Fluid
    2. Synovial Fluid WBC: 10,000 to 20,000 (>50% PMNs)
    3. Gram Stain Positive in <20% of cases
    4. Culture positive in 80% of cases
  5. Prosthetic Joint
    1. Synovasure Lateral Flow Test
      1. Detects human alpha defensins released by activated Neutrophils
      2. Positive test suggestive of Bacterial periprosthetic infection

XIII. Imaging

  1. Joint Xray
    1. Early changes
      1. Distention of joint capsule
      2. Joint Dislocation
    2. Late changes
      1. Joint space destruction
      2. Epiphyseal cartilage resorption
      3. Metaphysis erosion
  2. Joint Ultrasound
    1. Bedside Ultrasound using high frequency linear probe (9-15 MHz)
    2. Indentifies effusion
      1. Have patient move joint to distinguish effusion (re-distributes) from synovial thickening (static)
    3. Guides aspiration
      1. Especially helpful in Hip Joint evaluation and needle aspiration
      2. See Hip Ultrasound (Anterior Hip in Long Axis or LAX)
  3. Advanced imaging
    1. CT or MRI joint for unclear diagnosis
    2. CT-guided aspiration may also be considered if Ultrasound-guided aspiration results in dry tap

XIV. Imaging: Possibly Infected Prosthetic Joint

  1. Nuclear scan
    1. Negative Nuclear scan excludes septic prosthetic joint
  2. Pet Scan
  3. Avoid CT Scan or MRI in infected prosthetic joint
    1. Does not distinguish infected prosthetic joint from other causes of pain

XV. Management: General

  1. Obtain early Consultation
  2. Septic Arthritis management requires two components
    1. Thorough Joint Fluid drainage of purulent fluid
    2. Antimicrobial management to cover the causative organisms
  3. Antibiotics are started after obtaining joint culture and Blood Culture
    1. See Septic Arthritis Causes for antibiotic considerations
    2. Gram Stain of fluid may assist antibiotic selection
    3. Empirically antibiotics based on age and risk factors (see below) until culture results available
    4. Antibiotics do not need to be injected into joints
    5. Joint cultures are recommended before antibiotics in most cases even if 24-48 hour antibiotic start delay
    6. Antibiotics may be considered prior to Arthrocentesis ONLY if
      1. Strong suspicion of Septic Arthritis AND
      2. Consultant agrees that antibiotics should be started before the culture has been obtained AND
      3. Procedure is delayed >24-48 hours
        1. Difficult Arthrocentesis requiring Intervention Radiology or rheumatology
  4. Adjunctive Corticosteroids
    1. Discuss with consultant (orthopod)
    2. Associated with decreased duration and Disability in studies of pediatric Septic Arthritis
    3. Odio (2003) Pediatr Infect Dis J 22(10): 833-8 [PubMed]

XVI. Management: Surgical

  1. Urgent orthopedic Consultation is indicated in all cases of suspected Septic Arthritis
  2. Serial Joint Aspiration
    1. Repeat for reaccumulation of fluid as needed up to once to twice daily
    2. Consider saline lavage
  3. Arthroscopy
    1. Preferred in Shoulder and Knee Joints (better visualization and irrigation, less post-op morbidity)
  4. Open Surgical drainage indications
    1. Difficult Joint Aspiration access (e.g. hip)
    2. Persistent fever and symptoms >24 hours
    3. Leukocytosis persists beyond 48 to 72 hours
    4. Repeat blood or joint cultures positive >48 hours
    5. Infected joint prosthesis
      1. Prosthesis may be salvaged if infection <1-2 weeks
        1. Many infected prostheses may still need to be removed
      2. Surgically debride the infection
      3. Treat with parenteral combination antibiotic therapy for 4 weeks (equivalent outcome to 6 week course)
        1. Use Rifampin as part of antibiotic regimen

XVII. Management: Antibiotics for Infants (age <3 months)

  1. See Septic Arthritis Causes
  2. Empiric antibiotics (2 drug regimen)
    1. Drug 1: Vancomycin 40 mg/kg divided q6-8 hours IV
    2. Drug 2: Cefotaxime 50 mg/kg IV q8 hours
  3. Modify antibiotic selection based on Blood Culture (positive in a majority of cases)
  4. Assume Osteomyelitis of adjacent bone (occurs in two thirds of cases)

XVIII. Management: Antibiotics for Children (3 months to 14 years)

  1. See Septic Arthritis Causes
  2. Primary regimen
    1. Two drug regimen (most cases)
      1. Drug 1: Vancomycin 40 mg/kg divided q6-8 hours IV
      2. Drug 2: Cefotaxime 50 mg/kg IV q8 hours
    2. One drug regimen (if Gram Stain only with Gram Negative organisms)
      1. Cefotaxime 50 mg/kg IV q8 hours
  3. Alternative regimen (2 drug regimen)
    1. Drug 1: Aztreonam 30 mg/kg IV q6 hours
    2. Drug 2: Choose one
      1. Clindamycin 7.5 mg/kg IV q6 hours or
      2. Linezolid 10 mg/kg IV q8 hours
  4. Modify antibiotic selection based on Blood Culture
  5. Duration of therapy is typically 30 days
    1. Ten days may be adequate in quickly resolving symptom, signs and C-RP
    2. Peltola (2009) Clin Infect Dis 48:1201–10 [PubMed]

XIX. Management: Antibiotics for Adolescents and Adults (age over 14 years)

  1. Acute monoarticular with STD risk
    1. Gram Stain clear or with Gram Negative diplococci
      1. Ceftriaxone 1 gram IV q24 hours or
      2. Cefotaxime 1 gram IV q8 hours or
      3. Ceftizoxime 1 gram IV q8 hours
    2. Gram Stain with Gram Positive Cocci
      1. Vancomycin 15-20 mg/kg IV q8-12 hours
    3. Gram Stain with Gram Negative Bacilli
      1. Cefepime 2 grams q8 hours IV or
      2. Meropenem 1 gram q8 hours IV
  2. Acute monoarticular without STD risk
    1. Gram Stain Negative (2 drug regimen)
      1. Drug 1: Vancomycin 15-20 mg/kg IV q8-12 hours
      2. Drug 2: Choose one
        1. Ceftriaxone 1 gram IV q24 hours or
        2. Cefepime 2 grams IV q8 hours
        3. Alternative: Ciprofloxacin 400 mg q12 hours or Levofloxacin 750 mg IV q24 hours
    2. Gram Stain with Gram Positive Cocci
      1. Vancomycin 15-20 mg/kg IV q8-12 hours
    3. Gram Stain with Gram Negative Bacilli
      1. Cefepime 2 grams q8 hours IV or
      2. Meropenem 1 gram q8 hours iv
    4. Pseudomonas suspected
      1. Cefepime OR
      2. Piperacillin-Tazobactam
  3. Polyarticular Arthritis
    1. Ceftriaxone 1 gram IV q24 hours

XX. Management: Iatrogenic Infection (Joint Injection or prosthesis)

  1. Empiric therapy before culture results
    1. Option 1 (2 drug regimen)
      1. Drug 1: Vancomycin
      2. Drug 2: Ciprofloxacin, Aztreonam, or Gentamycin
    2. Option 2 (2 drug regimen)
      1. Drug 1
        1. Ciprofloxacin 750 PO bid or
        2. Ofloxacin 200 mg PO tid
      2. Drug 2: Rifampin 900 mg PO qd
  2. Ciprofloxacin and Rifampin sensitive by culture
    1. Option 1 (2 drug regimen)
      1. Drug 1: Ciprofloxacin or Ofloxacin
      2. Drug 2: Rifampin 900 mg PO qd
    2. Option 2 (2 drug regimen)
      1. Drug 1: Oxacillin 2 grams IV every 4 hours
      2. Drug 2: Rifampin 900 mg PO qd
  3. Ciprofloxacin or Rifampin resistance by culture
    1. Vancomycin and
    2. Rifampin (if sensitive)

XXI. Management: Antibiotic Course

  1. Nongonococcal Bacterial Infection
    1. Parenteral antibiotics for 2 to 4 weeks
    2. Oral antibiotics for 2 to 4 weeks
  2. See Gonococcal Arthritis
  3. See Tuberculous Arthritis

XXII. Prognosis

  1. Early joint drainage and antibiotics
    1. Good prognosis
  2. Delayed management >24 hours
    1. Risk of joint arthrosis, fibrosis and osteonecrosis
  3. Overall mortality
    1. Mortality may be as high as 5-20% in elderly, Immunocompromised or in disseminated infection

XXIII. References

  1. Klippel (1997) Primer Rheumatic Diseases, p. 196-200
  2. Gilbert (2012) Sanford Guide to Antimicrobials
  3. Merenstein (1994) Handbook Pediatrics, Lange, p.710-2
  4. Papp and Mann (2016) Crit Dec Emerg Med 30(8): 17-23
  5. Shahideh (2013) Crit Dec Emerg Med 27(9):10-18
  6. Carpenter (2011) Acad Emerg Med 18(8):781-96 [PubMed]
  7. Stimmler (1996) Postgrad Med 99(4):127-39 [PubMed]
  8. Kallio (1997) Pediatr Infect Dis 16:411-2 [PubMed]

Images: Related links to external sites (from Bing)

Related Studies

Ontology: Prosthetic joint infection (C0410808)

Concepts Disease or Syndrome (T047)
SnomedCT 213121005
English infection due to internal joint prosthesis, infection due to internal joint prosthesis (diagnosis), infection due to an internal joint prosthesis, prosthetic joint infection, infections joint prosthetic, infections joints prosthetic, Infected arthroplasty, Infected joint prosthesis, Prosthetic joint infection, Prosthetic joint infection (disorder)
Spanish infección de articulación protésica (trastorno), infección de articulación protésica, infección de prótesis articular, infección de prótesis articular (trastorno), artroplastia infectada

Ontology: Septic joint (C0745492)

Concepts Disease or Syndrome (T047)
Dutch septisch gewricht, gewricht; septisch, septisch; gewricht
French Articulation septique
German septisches Gelenk
Italian Sepsi articolare
Portuguese Articulação séptica
Spanish Articulación séptica
Japanese 関節化膿, カンセツカノウ
Czech Septický kloub
English joints septic, septic joint, Septic joint, joint; septic, septic; joint
Hungarian ízület septicus

Ontology: Arthritis, Bacterial (C1692886)

Concepts Disease or Syndrome (T047)
MSH D001170
SnomedCT 267877005, 156460008, 201457006, 48245008
English Arthritides, Bacterial, Bacterial Arthritides, Bacterial Arthritis, Arthritis due to bacter infect, Pyogenic arthritis NOS, Arthritis, Bacterial, ARTHRITIDES BACT, ARTHRITIS BACT, BACT ARTHRITIDES, BACT ARTHRITIS, septic arthritis, septic arthritis (diagnosis), Arthritis bacterial NOS, Septic Arthritis, Pyogenic Arthritis, bacterial arthritis, purulent arthritis, pyogenic arthritis, septic arthrits, arthritis suppurative, suppurative arthritis, arthritis septic, pyarthrosis, Arthritis due to bacterial infection (disorder), Arthritis bacterial, Arthritis: [septic] or [pyogenic] (disorder), Arthritis: [septic] or [pyogenic], Pyogenic bacterial arthritis, Bacterial arthritis, Pyogenic arthritis, Arthritis due to bacterial infection, Septic arthritis, Bacterial arthritis (disorder), bacterium; arthritis, arthritis; bacterial, Bacterial arthritis, NOS, Septic arthritis, NOS, Arthritis due to bacterial infection [Ambiguous], Arthritides, Septic, Arthritis, Septic, Septic Arthritides, Arthritides, Suppurative, Arthritis, Suppurative, Suppurative Arthritides, Suppurative Arthritis
Dutch artritis bacterieel NAO, artritis; bacterie, bacterie; artritis, artritis bacterieel, Artritis, bacteriële
French Arthrite bactérienne SAI, Arthrite bactérienne, Arthrite infectieuse, Arthrite septique, Arthrite suppurée
German Arthritis bakteriell NNB, Arthritis, bakterielle, Arthritis bakteriell, Arthritis, infektiöse
Italian Artrite batterica NAS, Artrite batterica, Artrite settica, Artrite suppurativa, Artrite infettiva
Portuguese Artrite bacteriana NE, Artrite Bacteriana, Artrite bacteriana, Artrite Infecciosa, Artrite Séptica
Spanish Artritis bacteriana NEOM, artritis séptica, Artritis Bacteriana, artritis bacteriana (trastorno), artritis bacteriana, Artritis bacteriana, Artritis Séptica
Japanese 細菌性関節炎NOS, サイキンセイカンセツエン, サイキンセイカンセツエンNOS, 化膿性関節炎, 関節炎-ウイルス性, 敗血性関節炎, 関節炎-化膿性, 感染性関節炎, 関節炎-敗血性, 細菌性関節炎, 関節炎-細菌性, 関節炎-感染性, ウイルス性関節炎
Finnish Infektioartriitti
Czech Bakteriální artritida, Bakteriální artritida NOS, infekční artritida, artritida infekční, bakteriální artritida, hnisavá artritida, septická artritida
Hungarian bacterialis arthritis k.m.n., bacterialis arthritis
Norwegian Infeksiøs artritt, Artritt, septisk, Artritt, bakteriell, Septisk artritt, Artritt, suppurativ, Leddbetennelse, infeksiøs, Artritt, infeksiøs, Infeksiøs leddbetennelse, Bakteriell artritt, Suppurativ artritt