Learn About Septic Arthritis

View Main Condition: Arthritis

What is the definition of Septic Arthritis?

Septic arthritis is inflammation of a joint due to a bacterial or fungal infection. Septic arthritis that is due to the bacteria that cause gonorrhea has different symptoms and is called gonococcal arthritis.

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What are the alternative names for Septic Arthritis?

Bacterial arthritis; Non-gonococcal bacterial arthritis

What are the causes of Septic Arthritis?

Septic arthritis develops when bacteria or other tiny disease-causing organisms (microorganisms) spread through the blood to a joint. It may also occur when the joint is directly infected with a microorganism from an injury or during surgery. Joints that are commonly affected are the knee and hip.

Most cases of acute septic arthritis are caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria.

Chronic septic arthritis (which is less common) is caused by organisms including Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Candida albicans.

The following conditions increase your risk for septic arthritis:

  • Artificial joint implants
  • Bacterial infection somewhere else in your body
  • Presence of bacteria in your blood
  • Chronic illness or disease (such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and sickle cell disease)
  • Intravenous (IV) or injection drug use
  • Medicines that suppress your immune system
  • Recent joint injury
  • Recent joint arthroscopy or other surgery

Septic arthritis may be seen at any age. In children, it occurs most often in those younger than 3 years. The hip is often the site of infection in infants. Most cases are caused by the bacteria group B streptococcus. Another common cause is Haemophilus influenza, especially if the child has not been vaccinated for this bacterium.

What are the symptoms of Septic Arthritis?

Symptoms usually come on quickly. There is a fever and joint swelling that is usually in just one joint. There is also intense joint pain, which gets worse with movement.

Symptoms in newborns or infants:

  • Crying when infected joint is moved (for example, during diaper changes)
  • Fever
  • Not able to move the limb with the infected joint (pseudoparalysis)
  • Fussiness

Symptoms in children and adults:

  • Not able to move the limb with the infected joint (pseudoparalysis)
  • Severe joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint redness
  • Fever

Chills may occur but are uncommon.

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What are the current treatments for Septic Arthritis?

Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.

Resting, raising the joint above heart level, and using cool compresses may help relieve pain. After the joint starts to heal, exercising it can help speed up recovery.

If joint (synovial) fluid builds up quickly due to the infection, a needle may be inserted into the joint to withdraw (aspirate) the fluid. Severe cases may need surgery to drain the infected joint fluid and irrigate (wash) the joint.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Septic Arthritis?

Recovery is good with prompt antibiotic treatment. If treatment is delayed, permanent joint damage may result.

When should I contact a medical professional for Septic Arthritis?

Call for an appointment with your provider if you develop symptoms of septic arthritis.

How do I prevent Septic Arthritis?

Preventive (prophylactic) antibiotics may be helpful for people at high risk.

What are the latest Septic Arthritis Clinical Trials?
A Phase 1, Blinded, Single Ascending Dose Study to Evaluate Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Activity of TRL1068 in Subjects With Prosthetic Joint Infection of the Knee or Hip, Undergoing Primary Two Stage Exchange Arthroplasty

Summary: TRL1068 is expected to eliminate the pathogen-protecting biofilm in the prosthetic joint and surrounding tissue, thus making these pathogens substantially more susceptible to established antibiotic treatment regimens. This initial study is designed to assess overall safety and pharmacokinetics (PK) of TRL1068. The overall goal of the development program is to demonstrate that TRL1068 can facilitat...

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Single vs Planned Double-Debridement Antibiotics and Implant Retention Followed by Chronic Antibiotic Suppression for the Treatment of Acute Periprosthetic Joint Infection: A Prospective, Multicenter, Randomized Clinical Trial

Summary: The purpose of this research is to evaluate two different standard of care surgeries in treating periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) after total hip and knee arthroplasty. Researchers are looking at differences in outcomes following single versus planned double debridement, antibiotics, and implant retention (DAIR) for acutely infected total hip arthroplasty (THA), and total knee arthroplasties (...

What are the Latest Advances for Septic Arthritis?
Long-term follow-up of certolizumab pegol in uveitis due to immune-mediated inflammatory diseases: multicentre study of 80 patients.
Right hip gonococcal septic arthritis treatment with successful transition to oral fluoroquinolone.
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Tularemia Proximal Interphalangeal Joint Septic Arthritis: A Case Report.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: June 20, 2021
Published By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Cook PP, Siraj DS. Bacterial arthritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, Koretzky GA, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Firestein & Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 116.

Robinette E, Shah SS. Septic arthritis. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 705.