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Septic Arthritis

Posted Jun 30 2010 6:14pm


Septic arthritis poses the biggest threat to young children and the elderly as their immune systems can be compromised due to their age. This disease should not be taken lightly as it has a tendency to damage bone cartilage as well as creating septic shock which can be fatal.

Septic arthritis also called infectious or bacterial arthritis is not as common as some other types of arthritis, it needs to be diagnosed and treated quickly because it can damage joints in just a short period of time.

Septic arthritis is the reproduction of bacteria in the joints that results to inflammation. Bacteria are either carried by the bloodstream from an infectious source elsewhere or are initiated by a skin lesion that penetrates the joint. It arises most in persons who have had a traumatic injury, persons with artificial joints, and in persons with bacteremia (presence of bacteria in the blood) where organisms can spread from the blood into joint space.

Septic arthritis should be suspected when one joint is affected causing joint swelling, intense joint pain, and low-grade fever. In children, septic arthritis can occur with the following bacterium: Bacilli, Hemophilius, and Staphylococci. It occurs most often in children less than three years old. The hip is a frequent location of infection in infants. These bacteria’s can be life-threatening if they overtake the joints and spread to the organs. Senior citizens are prone to septic arthritis through Staphylococci, Gonococci, and Streptococci. The acute form of septic arthritis is usually caused by organisms, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and group B streptococci; the chronic form although rarer is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Candida albicans.

The risk that septic arthritis pose include a simultaneous bacterial infection, chronic illness, diseases or medications that suppress the immune system, rheumatoid arthritis, intravenous drug abuse, and sickle cell disease.

What tests are used? Common tests used to diagnose the existence of septic arthritis includes: blood culture; synovial fluid analysis or culture of joint fluid; and X-ray of joints.

What are the treatments? Antibiotic treatments are initiated as soon as the diagnosis is made, based on the best clinical judgment of the organism that causes it. The exact antibiotic that will be used will depend on the microorganism that is taken from the synovial fluid, and the choice of antibiotic depends on which are active against the bacteria and how effective it can be in getting into joint space where the infection is.

When synovial fluids amass quickly in the joint due to the infection, regular aspiration (using a needle and suction to remove the liquid) is required to relieve the pressure and to attain material to culture the specific pathogen. Surgery may be needed to drain the fluid in more sever cases.

Rest, immobilization, elevation, and warm compresses for pain relief measures may be used at the start of the treatment. Exercises for the affected joints can aid in the recovery process.

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