Effects of different tissue specimen pretreatment methods on microbial culture results in the diagnosis of periprosthetic joint infection

Bone Joint Res. 2021 Feb;10(2):96-104. doi: 10.1302/2046-3758.102.BJR-2020-0104.R3.


Aims: Microbiological culture is a key element in the diagnosis of periprosthetic joint infection (PJI). However, cultures of periprosthetic tissue do not have optimal sensitivity. One of the main reasons for this is that microorganisms are not released from the tissues, either due to biofilm formation or intracellular persistence. This study aimed to optimize tissue pretreatment methods in order to improve detection of microorganisms.

Methods: From December 2017 to September 2019, patients undergoing revision arthroplasty in a single centre due to PJI and aseptic failure (AF) were included, with demographic data and laboratory test results recorded prospectively. Periprosthetic tissue samples were collected intraoperatively and assigned to tissue-mechanical homogenization (T-MH), tissue-manual milling (T-MM), tissue-dithiothreitol (T-DTT) treatment, tissue-sonication (T-S), and tissue-direct culture (T-D). The yield of the microbial cultures was then analyzed.

Results: A total of 46 patients were enrolled, including 28 patients in the PJI group and 18 patients in the AF group. In the PJI group, 23 cases had positive culture results via T-MH, 22 cases via T-DTT, 20 cases via T-S, 15 cases via T-MM, and 13 cases via T-D. Three cases under ongoing antibiotic treatment remained culture-negative. Five tissue samples provided the optimal yield. Any ongoing antibiotic treatment had a relevant influence on culture sensitivity, except for T-DTT.

Conclusion: T-MH had the highest sensitivity. Combining T-MH with T-DTT, which requires no special equipment, may effectively improve bacterial detection in PJI. A total of five periprosthetic tissue biopsies should be sampled in revision arthroplasty for optimal detection of PJI. Cite this article: Bone Joint Res 2021;10(2):96-104.

Keywords: Culture; Periprosthetic joint infection; Pretreatment.