What is septic arthritis? — Septic arthritis is a condition that causes a painful, swollen, and fluid-filled joint. Septic arthritis is caused by an infection in the joint. This infection is usually caused by bacteria, but it can also be caused by other germs. The bacteria get into the joint in different ways. Most often, the bacteria travel to the joint through the blood from another part of the body.
Septic arthritis sometimes leads to joint damage and long-term joint problems.
What are the symptoms of septic arthritis? — Symptoms usually start suddenly and can include:
Warm skin around the joint
Trouble moving the joint
Septic arthritis usually affects only one joint, but sometimes it affects more than one joint. Joints commonly involved are the knee, wrist, ankle, and hip.
Is there a test for septic arthritis? — Yes. Tests for septic arthritis include:
Lab tests on a sample of fluid from the joint – Usually, the doctor can use a needle and syringe to get a sample of fluid. But sometimes the doctor has to do surgery to get a sample of fluid. The fluid sample is sent to a lab for tests.
Blood tests, called "blood cultures," to check for bacteria in the blood
An X-ray of the joint
How is septic arthritis treated? — Treatment for septic arthritis involves both:
Antibiotic medicines – These medicines kill the germs that are causing the infection. People usually get these medicines through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV."
Draining the fluid from the joint – Doctors can drain the fluid in different ways, depending on which joint is involved. Many times, they can use a needle and syringe to drain the fluid. But sometimes they need to do surgery to drain the fluid. If your joint keeps filling up with fluid, you might need to have the fluid drained more than once.
Your doctor might also have you work with a physical therapist (exercise expert). The physical therapist can show you exercises to prevent joint problems and keep your joint from getting too stiff.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 83255 Version 5.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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