• Infectious Arthritis


    What is infectious arthritis?

    Infectious arthritis is an infection in a joint. Infection with a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause.


    Who is at risk for infectious arthritis?

    • Patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Patients with certain infections, including HIV infection.
    • Patients with certain types of cancer.
    • IV drug abusers and alcoholics.
    • Patients with artificial joints.
    • Patients with diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or systemic lupus erythematosus.
    • Patients with recent joint injuries or surgery, or patients receiving medications injected directly into a joint.


    How do you get infectious arthritis?

    If some bacteria settle on a small section of a joint, they can multiply and cause infection. Bacteria can get to a joint:

    • Via the bloodstream. Bacteria may get into the blood from an infection in another part of the body and travel to a bone.
    • From an injury. Bacteria can get into a joint if you have a wound that cuts into a joint.
    • During surgery. Infection is an uncommon complication if you have joint surgery or joint investigations (such as arthroscopy).

    How do we diagnose Infectious Arthritis?

    The diagnosis of infectious arthritis depends on a combination of laboratory testing with careful history-taking and physical examination of the affected joint. It is important to keep in mind that infectious arthritis can coexist with other forms of arthritis, gout, rheumatic fever, Lyme disease, or other disorders that can cause a combination of joint pain and fever.


    What is the treatment of Infectious Arthritis?

    (A) Medications for Infectious Arthritis

    After the disease organism has been identified, the doctor may give the patient a drug that targets the specific bacterium or virus. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually given for viral infections.

    Intravenous antibiotics are given for about six weeks, or until the inflammation has disappeared. The patient may then be given a two- to four-week course of oral antibiotics.


    (B) Surgery for Infectious Arthritis

    In some cases, surgery is necessary to drain fluid from the infected joint. Patients who need surgical drainage include those who have not responded to antibiotic treatment, those with infections of the hip or other joints that are difficult to reach with arthrocentesis, and those with joint infections related to gunshot or other penetrating wounds.


    What is the prognosis?

    If the infection is treated promptly, then there is a good chance of complete cure with no long-term problems. If there is delay in treatment, the infection can quickly destroy parts of the joint.


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