Septic arthritis

Radiol Clin North Am. 1988 Nov;26(6):1295-313.


Infectious arthritis is a commonly encountered clinical problem which may result from articular contamination by a wide variety of organisms. Involvement of an articulation may occur by one of four mechanisms: hematogenous spread, spread from a contiguous source of infection, direct implantation, or postoperative contamination. Distribution is typically monoarticular with a swollen, erythematous, and painful joint. The radiographic differential diagnosis includes limited rheumatoid arthritis, gout, synovial osteochondromatosis, and pigmented villonodular synovitis. In order to prevent complications, including growth disturbances, articular destruction with ankylosis, osteomyelitis, or soft tissue extension, early diagnostic arthrocentesis is important. Radiographic abnormalities, which include soft tissue swelling, joint space loss, periarticular osteopenia, and central or marginal osseous erosions, may be delayed following clinical onset of infection. Advanced imaging techniques such as scintigraphy, CT, or MRI may allow accurate diagnosis of the infectious process at an earlier stage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Infectious* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Infectious* / etiology
  • Arthritis, Infectious* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Radiography