Septic Arthritis - Diagnosis

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How is septic arthritis diagnosed?

Septic arthritis is diagnosed by identifying infected joint fluid. Joint fluid can easily be removed sterilely in the office, clinic, or hospital with a needle and syringe. The fluid is analyzed in a laboratory to determine if there is an elevated number of white blood cells to suggest inflammation. A culture of the joint fluid can identify the particular microbe and determine its susceptibility to a variety of antibiotics.

X-ray studies of the joint can be helpful to detect injury of bone adjacent to the joint. MRI scanning is very sensitive in evaluating joint destruction. Blood tests are frequently used to detect and monitor inflammation. These tests include the white blood cell count, sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Rusty, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 19

I had severe pain, inability bear weight, and malaise that led me to go to the emergency room. After being told to go home, I refused to leave. I told them that I did not have fibromyalgia and did not want narcotics and the pain medications that I had been taking for months were not helping the pain. I wanted them to find out what was causing the pain. The doctors then did a CBC and said my white count was really high. I had fever, sweating, and screamed when I moved. A needle aspiration revealed septic arthritis. I had to demand treatment, but at least they finally figured out what was wrong with me.

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Comment from: frank, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: November 06

My knee started to hurt one night and by next day I was in agony. After 3 trips to Accident & Emergency, 2 to the doctor and 3 to a fracture clinic (unbelievably) they finally took a blood test. I was admitted and had 2 washouts and was on a drip for 3 weeks. I had a manipulation 2 months later, spent 10 months unable to walk without severe pain and finally had a knee replacement. Septic arthritis is bad news.

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