What is the presentation of prosthetic joint infection (PJI) septic arthritis?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
  • Print

Compared with patients with infections of native joints, most patients with prosthetic joint infection (PJI) exhibit a prolonged low-grade course with gradually increasing pain. However, with gram-negative infections, especially with enteric organisms, PJI may be far more acute in onset.

Usually, no significant fever or swelling occurs (delayed prosthetic joint infection). However, individuals with early prosthetic joint infection present with an acute illness characterized by high-grade fever, focal swelling, and redness. Cellulitis and draining sinus tracts often develop.

Because late prosthetic joint infection is usually secondary to bacteremia, the clinical picture is often dominated by the source of the bloodstream infection.

The nature of the invading organism, the type of tissue infected, and the route of infection determine presentation. Thus, a high index of suspicion is needed for identification of bacteremic and delayed prosthetic joint infection. Because of its many pathogenic mechanisms, S aureus is usually associated with a fulminant course, as opposed to the indolent course of coagulase-negative S aureus (CoNS) that dominates delayed prosthetic joint infection. Relatively devitalized tissues (eg, wound hematomas) are conducive to rapid bacterial replication and a more acute course. Bacteremic spread allows infection with fewer organisms and leads to a more muted course.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!