Significance of Negative Cultures in the Treatment of Acute Hematogenous Bone and Joint Infections in Children

J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc. 2013 Jun;2(2):119-25. doi: 10.1093/jpids/pis108. Epub 2013 Jan 10.


Background: Synovial fluid and blood cultures often remain negative in acute bone and joint infections of childhood even when characteristic symptoms, signs, and/or radiologic proof are present.

Methods: We analyzed 345 prospectively documented osteoarticular infections in children at age 3 months to 15 years. In 23% of the cases (N = 80), synovial, bone, and/or blood cultures remained negative. The characteristics of these cases were compared with patients with culture-positive bone and joint infections.

Results: The 2 groups did not differ in age or gender distribution, surgical procedures performed, or outcome. In the culture-negative cases, the initial serum C-reactive protein level was lower (58 vs 87 mg/L, P < .0001) and the hospital stay was shorter (8 vs 11 days, P < .0001).

Conclusions: Bone and joint infections in which cultures fail to identify the causative agent can be treated similarly as culture-positive cases.

Keywords: Bacteria; Culture; Osteomyelitis; Septic Arthritis.