Arthroscopic management of septic arthritis: stages of infection and results

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2000;8(5):270-4. doi: 10.1007/s001670000129.


Seventy-six patients with septic arthritis (78 affected joints) were treated with a combination of arthroscopic irrigation, debridement, and antibiotic therapy according to the tested bacterial sensitivity. There were 62 knee, 10 shoulder, 5 ankle joints, and 1 hip joint. No antibiotics were added to the irrigating solution. The arthroscopic and radiological stage of infection, treatment, and outcome in these patients was analyzed. The patients were classified into three groups according to initial stage of joint infection (stage I: 21 patients, 22 joints; stage II: 43 patients, 44 joints; stage III: 12 patients, 12 joints). Causes of infection were: hematogenous dissemination in 54%, postoperative wound infection in 28% (17% after open, 11% after arthroscopic procedures). Other causes were: 10% intra-articular steroid injections, 3% diagnostic punctures, and 3% open traumatic injury of the joint. In 78% of the infected joints the causative organism could be identified: Staphylococcus aureus was the most common organism found (42%), followed by streptococci (15%), pneumococci (6%), Escherichia coli (4%), Staphylococcus epidermidis (3%), Borrelia burgdorferi (3%), and others in 5%. In the stage I group only one patient needed repeated arthroscopic irrigation, in the stage II group 52%, and in the stage III group 75%. Open revision for eradication of the infection was necessary in one joint with stage II and in two joints with stage III infection (3%). Two joints of the stage III group needed additional surgery after successful treatment of the infection. The combination of arthroscopic irrigation and systemic antibiotic therapy was able to cure 91% of the affected joints. Open revision was necessary in 4% of joints. The number of arthroscopic procedures and the efficacy of treatment depended on the initial stage of the infection. It is concluded that an arthroscopic staging of the initial joint infection has prognostic and therapeutic consequences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ankle Joint
  • Arthritis, Infectious / microbiology
  • Arthritis, Infectious / surgery*
  • Arthroscopy*
  • Debridement
  • Decompression, Surgical
  • Female
  • Hip Joint
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Shoulder Joint
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Treatment Outcome