Tabetic arthropathy. A report of 43 cases

Clin Rheumatol. 2006 Nov;25(6):858-60. doi: 10.1007/s10067-006-0205-6. Epub 2006 Apr 7.


Destructive tabetic arthropathy (TA) has become rare in the course of syphilis because of early diagnosis and treatment. TA is difficult to manage because of the severity of the handicap and the absence of a specific treatment. We describe the clinical, biological, and radiological characteristics of TA. In this paper, we performed a retrospective study of 24 patients with TA from 1983 to 2003. Inclusion criteria were typical radiological findings and positive syphilitic serology in blood and/or synovial fluid and/or cerebrospinal fluid. Included in the study were 15 men and 9 women, their mean age was 53.71+/-12.25 years, and the delay of diagnosis was 36.83+/-53.03 months. Thirteen patients (54.2%) had a known primary syphilitis. In the studied cases, 43 of the patients' joints were involved, which concerned knees, hips, the spine, and ankles in 91.66, 8.33, 8.33, and 4.16% of cases, respectively. TA was bilateral in 62.5% and multifocal in 8.3%. The neurological exam found signs suggesting tabes dorsalis in seven cases. The osteoarticular exam showed an abnormal range of mobility (n=25), hydarthrosis, and articular deformation (n=17). Syphilitic serology tests were positive in synovial fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood in 12 (50%), 8 (33.33%), and 24 (100%) cases, respectively. Radiological exam showed atrophic and hypertrophic forms. The frequency and severity of TA in our study may be explained by the frequency of atypical forms of syphilitis and the absence of penicillin in Morocco in the 1950s.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthrography*
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / microbiology*
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / physiopathology*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Joints / physiopathology
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Penicillin G / administration & dosage
  • Penicillin G / therapeutic use
  • Penicillin G Benzathine / administration & dosage
  • Penicillin G Benzathine / therapeutic use
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Tabes Dorsalis / complications*
  • Tabes Dorsalis / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillin G
  • Penicillin G Benzathine