Clinical and radiological outcomes of postoperative septic arthritis after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

J Orthop Sci. 2010 Mar;15(2):198-203. doi: 10.1007/s00776-009-1447-3. Epub 2010 Apr 1.


Background: Septic arthritis after arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is a rare complication. In the literature, several treatments have been proposed. The aim of the study was to report our results using ambulatory irrigation of the knee and parenteral and oral antibiotics.

Methods: From January 2001 to December 2008, a total of 12 patients were treated for postoperative septic arthritis of the knee after ACL reconstruction in our hospital. The average age at trauma was 24 years (range 16-43 years). The treatment protocol included irrigation of the knee (for 2 days) and parenteral antibiotics and oral antibiotics subsequently. Repetitive irrigation was performed if necessary. The average duration of follow-up for our series was 38 months (range 6-54 months). Follow-up included International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) forms, radiography, Tegner and Lysholm scores, and KT-1000 arthrometric evaluation.

Results: In all cases treatment of infection was successful. Neither graft nor hardware removal was needed in any of the cases. At final examination, the pivot shift was negative in 10 of 12 patients, and it was 1+ in the other 2 patients; the Lachman was negative in all cases. The mean postoperative Tegner score was 7.2, and the mean Lysholm score was 98.3. In all, 10 of the 12 patients were graded as group A and the other 2 as group B using the IKDC form. The mean postoperative manual maximum KT-1000 side-to-side difference was 2.3. No significant bone tunnel enlargement was found at radiographic evaluation.

Conclusions: The described treatment regimen gives reliable results for this complication. There were no recurrences of septic arthritis or bone infection. No further surgeries were required, and the graft was retained during the treatment of septic arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Arthritis, Infectious / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Infectious / microbiology
  • Arthritis, Infectious / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Injuries / surgery*
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / microbiology
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Radiography
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Staphylococcal Infections
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents