Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Septic Arthritis Overview

What is septic arthritis?
A person with septic arthritis has severe inflammation of a joint, caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria may enter the joint from a wound, or the bacteria may spread to the joint through the bloodstream from another location in the body. Causes of septic arthritis include cellulitis, skin ulcers, skin wounds, joint surgery, and osteomyelitis. Early treatment of septic arthritis usually results in a complete cure, but delayed treatment may result in severe damage to the joint. About 1 out of 13,000 people develop septic arthritis each year in the US.

What are the symptoms of septic arthritis?
Symptoms of septic arthritis include severe joint pain that is worse with movement, joint redness, joint tenderness, and joint swelling. Additional symptoms of septic arthritis include fever, chills, and fatigue. The most common location for septic arthritis is the knee, followed by the hip, shoulder, ankle and wrist.

How does the doctor treat septic arthritis?
Treatment for septic arthritis may include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, surgery, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or narcotic medications for pain.

Continue to Septic Arthritis Incidence

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Septic Arthritis References
  1. Barton LL, Dunkle LM, Habib FH. Septic arthritis in childhood. A 13-year review. Am J Dis Child. 1987 Aug;141(8):898-900. [3498362]
  2. Dubost JJ, Soubrier M, De Champs C, Ristori JM, Sauvezie B. Streptococcal septic arthritis in adults. A study of 55 cases with a literature review. Joint Bone Spine. 2004 Jul;71(4):303-11. [15288856]
  3. Margaretten ME, Kohlwes J, Moore D, Bent S. Does this adult patient have septic arthritis? JAMA. 2007 Apr 4;297(13):1478-88. [17405973]
  4. O'Meara PM, Bartal E. Septic arthritis: process, etiology, treatment outcome. A literature review. Orthopedics. 1988 Apr;11(4):623-8. [3290872]
  5. Ross JJ, Saltzman CL, Carling P, Shapiro DS. Pneumococcal septic arthritis: review of 190 cases. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Feb 1;36(3):319-27. [12539074]
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