Septic Arthritis - Health Center

Septic Arthritis

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Septic Arthritis: Basic Overview

Septic Arthritis is usually an intense and painful infection in the joints. A joint can become infected with the germs which travel via the bloodstream from another part of the body. Septic Arthritis may also occur due to a penetrating injury which brings the germs directly into the affected joint.

Infants and older adults are more susceptible towards developing Septic Arthritis as compared to their counterparts. The most common joints infected by this problem are the knees and the hips. Septic Arthritis tends to develop quickly and can damage the cartilage severely, therefore quick and speedy treatment is required.

The treatment for the condition involves draining of the joint with the help of a needle or via a surgical operation. Intravenous antibiotics may be needed in order to stop the infection from spreading. 

Causes of Septic Arthritis:

Septic Arthritis is caused due to a bacterial, viral or a fungal infection. The bacterial infection caused due to Staphylococcus Aureus is the most common cause of Septic Arthritis. Septic Arthritis tends to develop when an infection occurring elsewhere in the body spreads through the bloodstream to the affected joint.

In some of the rarer cases, a puncture wound, drug infection or a surgery in the affected joint can provide the germs with a pathway in order to enter the joint space. The inner lining of the joints – the synovium has an inbuilt ability to protect itself against infection by increasing the pressure and reducing the blood flow to the joint.

Signs and Symptoms of Septic Arthritis:

Septic Arthritis tends to cause intense extreme discomfort as well as difficulty in using the affected joint. The affected joint may be swollen, red and warm and the infection might accompany with a prolonged fever.

It is recommended to see a doctor if you develop a sudden onset of severe pain in the affected joint. Prompt and proper treatment is needed in order to minimize the damage caused to the joint. 

Tests and Diagnosis for Septic Arthritis:

The following tests are used in order to help with the diagnosis of Septic Arthritis:

  • Joint Fluid Analysis: This test is done in order to discover exactly the causative bacterium which has been causing the infection. The doctor extracts a sample of the fluid from the joint (synovial fluid) with the help of a needle. The synovial fluid is clear and thick. However, bacterial infections can alter the colour, consistency as well as the volume of the fluid. Laboratory analysis of the fluid can help the doctors to determine the causative organism behind the infection. Furthermore, the doctors may also order blood tests in order to look for the presence of the bacteria in the bloodstream. Imaging tests such as X Rays and other imaging tests can be done of the affected joint in order to look for signs of damage around the affected joint. 

Treatment and Drugs for Septic Arthritis:

Doctors often rely on the amount of joint damage and antibiotic drugs in order to treat Septic Arthritis.

Joint Drainage is done with the removal of the infected joint fluid. Some of the major drainage methods are as follows:

  1. Needle: In most cases, the doctors can withdraw a sample of the infected fluid with the help of a needle which is inserted into the joint space.
  2. Scope Procedure: With the help of Arthroscopy, a bendable tube is inserted with a video camera into the joint via a small incision. The suction and drainage tubes are then inserted into the small sections around the joint to drain the synovial fluid out.
  3. Open Surgery: In some of the affected joints such as the hip, an open surgical procedure might be necessary in order to drain the fluid out.

Antibiotic Drugs: After selecting and indentifying the specific microbe which is causing the infection, antibiotics are prescribed through the vein in the arm. Antibiotic treatment lasts for a period of two to six weeks. Antibiotics carry a major risk of side effects such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Allergic reactions are also a common side effect of this medication. It is recommended to talk to your doctor regarding the side effects of the medications.

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