Plant Thorn Arthritis (Plant Thorn Synovitis or Thorn Arthritis)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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What is the treatment for plant thorn arthritis?

It is important to recognize that puncturing a joint with a foreign material, such as a plant thorn, can lead to bacterial infection (septic arthritis) or fungal infection (fungal arthritis) of the joint. This possibility can be excluded by removing joint fluid and culturing the fluid in the laboratory. While plant thorn arthritis is technically noninfectious, these two forms of infectious arthritis can occur from plant thorn puncture of a joint, with or without true plant thorn arthritis. These forms of arthritis require urgent antibiotic treatment.

For plant thorn arthritis, anti-inflammatory medications may quiet some of the inflammation. However, chronic arthritis eventually develops even long after the plant thorn injury because of the thorn fragments remaining in the joint. This arthritis persists until the fragments are removed with a surgical operation. Without surgical resection of the plant fragments, joint inflammation persists and permanent joint destruction can occur. There is no specific medication or home remedy for plant thorn arthritis.

The surgical operation that can cure plant thorn arthritis is called a synovectomy with joint lavage (joint washout cleaning). During a synovectomy, the surgeon will remove the affected and surrounding joint lining tissue (synovium) to be certain that microscopic joint fragments within the joint and its lining are eliminated from the body.

Intraoperative photos of the author's right third metacarpophalangeal joint
With permission, these are intraoperative photos of the author's right third metacarpophalangeal joint exposing inflamed joint lining tissue (synovium) from which a 1 mm thorn tip from the common palm tree Phoenix roebelenii was surgically resected. Kindly provided by Gabriel Trainer, MD, and Neil Jones, MD, orthopedic hand surgery, University of California, Irvine Medical Center.
Photos of joint lining tissue resected from author's right third metacarpophalangeal joint
With permission, photos of joint lining tissue (yellowish synovium) resected from author's right third metacarpophalangeal joint after thorn puncture with 1 mm thorn tip (dark dot on thorn covered with joint lining tissue) from the common palm tree Phoenix roebelenii. Surgical resection of the inflamed tissue (synovitis), as well as all thorn fragments, is the key to curing plant thorn arthritis (plant thorn synovitis). Kindly provided by Gabriel Trainer, MD, and Neil Jones, MD, orthopedic hand surgery, University of California, Irvine Medical Center.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2015

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