Septic Arthritis (Infectious 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.

Septic Arthritis Treatment

Arthroscopy

Joint aspiration can also be helpful in relieving joint swelling and pain. Removal of joint fluid that is inflamed can also remove the white blood cells within that are sources of enzymes that can be destructive to the joint. Occasionally, cortisone (an anti-inflammatory medication) or hyaluronic acid derivatives (a synthetic joint lubricant, approved for use in the knee only) are injected into the joint during the joint aspiration in order to rapidly relieve joint inflammation and further reduce symptoms.

Quick GuideSlideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Slideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Septic arthritis facts

  • Septic arthritis is infection of one or more joints by microorganisms.
  • Septic arthritis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Risks for the development of septic arthritis include taking immune-suppression medicines, intravenous drug abuse, past joint disease, injury or surgery, and underlying medical illnesses, including diabetes, alcoholism, sickle cell disease, rheumatic diseases, and immune deficiency disorders.
  • Symptoms of septic arthritis include
  • Septic arthritis is diagnosed by identifying infected joint fluid.
  • Septic arthritis is treated with antibiotics and drainage of the infected joint fluid from the joint.

What is septic arthritis?

Septic, or infectious, arthritis is infection of one or more joints by microorganisms. Normally, the joint is lubricated with a small amount of fluid that is referred to as synovial fluid or joint fluid. The normal joint fluid is sterile and, if removed and cultured in the laboratory, no microbes will be detected. With septic arthritis, microbes are identifiable in an affected joint's fluid.

Most commonly, septic arthritis affects a single joint, but occasionally more joints are involved. The joints affected vary somewhat depending on the microbe causing the infection and the predisposing risk factors of the person affected. Septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016

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