Acute septic arthritis

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2002 Oct;15(4):527-44. doi: 10.1128/cmr.15.4.527-544.2002.


Acute septic arthritis may develop as a result of hematogenous seeding, direct introduction, or extension from a contiguous focus of infection. The pathogenesis of acute septic arthritis is multifactorial and depends on the interaction of the host immune response and the adherence factors, toxins, and immunoavoidance strategies of the invading pathogen. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Staphylococcus aureus are used in discussing the host-pathogen interaction in the pathogenesis of acute septic arthritis. While diagnosis rests on isolation of the bacterial species from synovial fluid samples, patient history, clinical presentation, laboratory findings, and imaging studies are also important. Acute nongonococcal septic arthritis is a medical emergency that can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Therefore, prompt recognition, rapid and aggressive antimicrobial therapy, and surgical treatment are critical to ensuring a good prognosis. Even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, high mortality and morbidity rates still occur. In contrast, gonococcal arthritis is often successfully treated with antimicrobial therapy alone and demonstrates a very low rate of complications and an excellent prognosis for full return of normal joint function. In the case of prosthetic joint infections, the hardware must be eventually removed by a two-stage revision in order to cure the infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Infectious / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Infectious / therapy
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis
  • Gonorrhea / etiology
  • Gonorrhea / therapy
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors