Diagnosing Septic Arthritis

By avn
7:16 am Posted November 18, 2016
In Infective arthritis

Septic Arthritis is an infection caused to the joint due to an infection from elsewhere in the body traveling through the bloodstream. It is also known as infectious arthritis. Septic arthritis is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, though bacterial infection is quite common. One large joint of the body such as the knee or hip is usually affected but very rarely multiple joints can be affected.

Young children and older adults are more prone to septic arthritis. While the knees are more prone to this infectious arthritis, it can also affect hips, shoulders, and other joints. As the infection can severely damage the joint, it is essential to seek prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of Septic Arthritis:

There is excessive discomfort along with swelling, redness, and warmth in the place of the affected joint. There may also be difficulty in moving the joint. As there is an infection, there may be fever as well. It is essential to seek medical help immediately in case one experiences severe joint pain of sudden onset. This will enable minimizing damage to the affected joint.

Risk factors of Septic Arthritis:

Young children and elderly are more prone to septic arthritis. Pre-existing joint problems also increases the risk of septic arthritis. Even those who are on medications for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are at a risk since the medications used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis suppresses the immune system which makes one prone to infections. Anyone who has a suppressed immune system like patients suffering from cancer and other immune deficiency disorders are also at risk of developing septic arthritis. Diabetes also increases the factor of risk for developing septic arthritis. People whose skin breaks easily and heals poorly are also at risk of developing septic arthritis, as bacterial infections can occur through the wounds increasing the risk of septic arthritis.

Diagnosis of Septic Arthritis:

The following tests enable the doctor to arrive at the diagnosis of septic arthritis.

  • Joint fluid analysis: A procedure called arthrocentesis is carried out. This provides an accurate diagnosis of septic arthritis. In this procedure, a surgical puncture at the site of the affected joint is done and the fluid is aspirated. This is called synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant and enables painless movement of the joint. The aspirated fluid is then sent to the lab for detailed analysis. The lab will check for the WBC (white blood cell) count. In case of an infection, the WBC count will be high. A culture test of the fluid will be done to determine the presence of bacteria or other infection-causing germs, which will help in confirming the presence of infection and also the germ causing it.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are performed to check for infection in the blood.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays are performed to check for joint damage. In case of them being unclear, MRI scans may be ordered to evaluate if there is any joint destruction, as it can produce clearer images.

Treatment of Septic Arthritis:

Treatment mainly involves draining the accumulated fluid from the joint and also starting on strong antibiotics intravenously, initially to control the spread of infection. It is very essential to aspirate the synovial fluid from the joint, as it would be infected. After the initial period, the doctor will switch to oral antibiotics depending on the response of the patient to the antibiotics. The treatment course might last for 2-4 weeks.

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