The Alpha-Defensin Test for Diagnosing Periprosthetic Joint Infection in the Setting of an Adverse Local Tissue Reaction Secondary to a Failed Metal-on-Metal Bearing or Corrosion at the Head-Neck Junction

J Arthroplasty. 2018 Jun;33(6):1896-1898. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2018.01.007. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Background: In patients with adverse local tissue reaction (ALTR) secondary to a failed metal-on-metal (MoM) bearing or corrosion at the head-neck junction in a metal-on-polyethylene bearing, ruling in or out periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) can be challenging. Alpha-defensin has emerged as an accurate test for PJI. The purpose of this multicenter, retrospective study was to evaluate the accuracy of the alpha-defensin synovial fluid test in detecting PJI in patients with ALTR.

Methods: We reviewed medical records of 26 patients from 3 centers with ALTR that had an alpha-defensin test performed. Patients were assessed for PJI using the Musculoskeletal Infection Society criteria. Thirteen of these subjects had MoM total hip arthroplasty, 9 had ALTR secondary to head-neck corrosion, and 4 had MoM hip resurfacing.

Results: Only 1 of the 26 patients met Musculoskeletal Infection Society criteria for infection. However, 9 hips were alpha-defensin positive, including 1 true positive and 8 that were falsely positive (31%). All 8 of the false positives were also Synovasure positive, although 5 of 8 had an accompanying warning stating the results may be falsely positive due to a low synovial C-reactive protein value.

Conclusion: Similar to synovial fluid white blood cell count, alpha-defensin testing is prone to false-positive results in the setting of ALTR. Therefore, we recommend an aggressive approach to ruling out PJI including routine aspiration of all hips with ALTR before revision surgery to integrate the synovial fluid blood cell count, differential, cultures and adjunctive tests like alpha-defensin to allow for accurate diagnosis preoperatively.

Keywords: alpha-defensin; corrosion; metal-on-metal hip arthroplasty; periprosthetic joint infection; revision hip arthroplasty.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Infectious / etiology
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / adverse effects*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Corrosion
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metal-on-Metal Joint Prostheses*
  • Metals
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnosis*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / etiology
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry
  • alpha-Defensins / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Metals
  • alpha-Defensins
  • Polyethylene
  • C-Reactive Protein