Septic Arthritis Causes Symptoms Treatment Medications Prevention

Septic Arthritis Causes Symptoms Treatment Medications Prevention

Septic Arthritis (Infectious Arthritis)

Septic, or infectious, arthritis is infection of one or more joints by microorganisms. Normally, the joint is lubricated with synovial fluid or joint fluid. The fluid is sterile. With this form of arthritis, microbes are identifiable in an affected joint’s fluid.

Infectious arthritis commonly affects a single joint, but occasionally more joints are involved. The joints affected vary somewhat depending on the microbe causing the infection and the predisposing risk factors of the patient. Septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis.

What causes septic arthritis?

Septic arthritis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The most common causes of septic arthritis are bacterial, including Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Haemophilus influenzae, E. coli, and Pseudomonas spp. Other causes include Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Salmonella spp., Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Viruses that can cause septic arthritis include hepatitis A, B, and C, parvovirus B19, herpes viruses, HIV, HTLV-1, adenovirus, Coxsackieviruses, mumps, and Ebola. Fungi that can cause septic arthritis include Histoplasma, Coccidioides, and Blastomyces.

Septic arthritis is not contagious. However, many of the microbes that cause infectious arthritis can be transmitted from an infected patient to another, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and HIV.

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While joint infection occasionally affects people with no known risk factors, it more commonly occurs in the presence of certain risk situations. Risks for the development of septic arthritis include medications that suppress the immune system, intravenous drug abuse, past joint disease, injury, or surgery, and underlying medical conditions and diseases.


What are the symptoms of septic arthritis?

Symptoms of septic arthritis include fever, chills, joint pain, swelling, redness, stiffness, and warmth. Joint pain commonly affects large joints, such as the knees, ankles, hips, and elbows.

Septic arthritis diagnosis and testing

Health care professionals diagnose septic arthritis by identifying infected joint fluid. During joint aspiration, synovial fluid can easily be removed for analysis. X-ray studies, MRI scanning, and blood tests are also used for evaluation.

Which health care professionals specialize in septic arthritis?

Doctors who treat septic arthritis include emergency physicians, internists, rheumatologists, orthopedists, infectious disease physicians, and rehabilitation-medicine providers.

What are the treatments for septic arthritis?

Treatment of septic arthritis includes antibiotic therapy and drainage of the infected joint fluid. Antibiotics are given immediately, usually intravenously. Drainage is essential for rapid clearing of the infection.

Are there home remedies for septic arthritis?

No. Septic arthritis is a medical emergency and requires acute treatment.

What is the prognosis for septic arthritis?

The outlook for septic arthritis depends on the microbe causing the infection, the duration of the infection, and the underlying overall health of the individual. Rapid medical attention and accurate administration of antibiotics are essential for a successful outcome.

What are complications of septic arthritis?

Rapid clearing of the infection is critical to preserve the joint. Delayed treatment can result in joint destruction and infection in other parts of the body.

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Is it possible to prevent septic arthritis?

Preventing septic arthritis involves avoiding infections, puncture wounds, and skin damage.

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"Children With Swollen, Painful Knees: Is It Lyme Disease or Septic Arthritis?" May 11, 2016. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Firestein, Gary S., et al. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology, 9th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2013.

Horowitz D.L., E. Katzap, S. Horowitz, and M.L. Barilla-LaBarca. "Approach to septic arthritis." Am Fam Physician 84.6 Sept. 15, 2011: 653-660.

Mathews, C.J., et al. "Management of Septic Arthritis: A Systematic Review." Ann Rheum Dis 66.4 Apr. 2007: 440-445.

Ross, J.J., et al. "Pneumococcal Septic Arthritis: Review of 190 Cases." Clin Infect Dis 36.3 Feb. 1, 2003: 319-327.


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