This study evaluated the effects of combining antibiotic therapy with the application of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug on the degradation of articular cartilage for an animal model of Staphylococcal septic arthritis. Rabbits were infected intra-articularly with Staphylococcus aureus. Antibiotic treatment started 18 hours after infection and continued for 7 days. Treatment with the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug naproxen sodium started 24 hours before infection and continued for either 3 or 7 weeks. The cartilage matrix of uninfected and infected knees was quantified by analysis of glycosaminoglycan and collagen content. Three weeks after infection, the combined treatment of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and antibiotics reduced the loss of glycosaminoglycan and collagen from the cartilage of the infected knee by 15 and 30%, respectively, compared with antibiotic treatment alone. Continuing treatment with naproxen sodium for 7 weeks reduced the loss of collagen by 50% when compared with antibiotic treatment alone. The longer period of treatment with naproxen sodium showed little further effect on the loss of glycosaminoglycan than that observed for the 3-week treatment. Treatment with this drug and antibiotics reduced swelling of the knee and levels of prostaglandin E2 in the synovial fluid. The data support the hypothesis that decreasing post-infectious inflammation by adding the drug to a standard antibiotic regimen reduces cartilage damage from Staphylococcal septic arthritis.