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Other Names:
Bacterial Arthritis
Septic Arthritis

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Definition

Septic arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of a joint caused by bacteria. The knee and the hip are the most commonly infected joints.

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Causes

  • Penetrating wound due to direct trauma or injury.
  • Surgical procedures such as arthroscopy.
  • Blood borne infection that may be caused by bacteria such as:
    • Staphylococcus
    • Streptococcus pneumoniae
    • Group B Streptococcus
    • Gonococcus
    • Haemophilus influenza.
    • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.
    • E.coli
  • Fungi e.g. Candida albicans
  • Chronic illness
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Immuno-suppressant medications
  • Intravenous drug abuse
  • Cancer chemotherapy
  • Artificial joint implant

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Symptoms

  • Severe and excruciating joint pain which worsens with joint movement
  • Redness and swelling of the affected joint
  • Tenderness of the affected joint and bone
  • Complete immobility of the affected joint
  • Low grade fever accompanied by chills
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss

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Implications

If left untreated, septic arthritis can become a chronic infection and spread to other bones of the body (osteomyelitis), eventually causing permanent joint degeneration, bone damage and bone death (osteonecrosis). This is a serious problem and may require amputation of the affected limb. Involvement of the bones of vertebral column may damage the spinal nerves and even prove fatal. The most common complication of septic arthritis is osteoarthritis which can be resistant to treatment. Poor response to treatment may result in difficulty walking, permanent limitation of movement of the affected joint and possibly shortening of the affected limb. Chronic infectious draining sites, over many years can evolve into a squamous cell skin cancer.

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What You Can Do

  • General Measures
    • Rest, splint or cast immobilization and elevation of the effected joint and limb
    • Warm compresses may be used pain relief.
    • Nutritious and balanced diet
    • Supplements like calcium, vitamin C, D and E are beneficial in tissue healing.
  • Medications
    • Antibiotics may be given intravenously during hospital stay for the first few weeks followed by oral antibiotics.
    • Pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) including aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen can prove to be beneficial in relieving pain.
    • Corticosteroids may be prescribed to subside inflammation in severe cases
  • Drainage
    • Accumulated synovial fluid due to excessive formation or pockets of pus may be aspirated or drained arthroscopically. In severe cases surgical drainage and debridement of the dead and diseased bone and soft tissues may be performed.
  • Surgery
    • Surgery is usually indicated if the infection is chronic or if you have metal plates or artificial joints. Such surgery may be followed by a bone or muscle graft to fill in the open space and promote growth of new tissues.
  • Performing stretches and light physical exercises on daily basis expedites the recovery process and prevents stiffness and atrophy of the affected joint.
  • Prevention
    • Clean any wound or penetrating injury thoroughly to prevent the bacteria from getting into the joint spaces.
    • Treat infection of other parts of the body promptly.
    • Follow your doctors advice and treatment for chronic illnesses.
    • Prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics may be helpful for high-risk people such as people with HIV or AIDS, cancer chemotherapy.

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Septic Arthritis