Septic Arthritis

Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is a joint infection caused by bacteria , viruses or fungi. This disease generally attacks large joints in the body, such as the knee or hip joints. Septic arthritis usually affects infants and the elderly.

Septic arthritis occurs when an infection from elsewhere spreads into the joint through blood or injury that penetrates the joint. The joint membrane ( synovium ) does not protect the joint from infection properly. As a result, the infection can develop quickly and cause inflammation.

Inflammation of the lining of the joints can cause the inside of the joint to swell and reduce blood flow to the area. This condition can damage other tissues within the joint, such as cartilage. Therefore, immediate treatment is needed to prevent this damage.

Causes of Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. The bacteria that commonly cause septic arthritis in adults and children are Streptococcus , Staphylococcus , and Haemophilus influenza.

Septic arthritis caused by bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to reach the joints. Generally, septic arthritis occurs due to the spread of infection from other organs, such as urinary tract infections , through the bloodstream. In addition, bacteria can also enter the joint through puncture wounds, drug injections, or surgery in the area near the joint.

While several types of fungi that can cause septic arthritis are Histoplasm a, Coccidiomuces, or Blastomyces . Generally, fungal septic arthritis develops more slowly than bacterial infections.

While the types of viruses that can cause septic arthritis are herpes virus , adenovirus, mumps virus , hepatitis A, B and C, and HIV.

Septic Arthritis Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing septic arthritis, namely:

  • Weak immune system, for example due to diabetes, kidney and liver disorders, or HIV/AIDS
  • Consumption of drugs that weaken the immune system ( immunosuppressant drugs ), including drugs for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Injuries and disorders of the joints, such as osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis or  lupus
  • History of joint surgery, such as knee or hip replacement
  • Skin conditions that break easily and are difficult to heal, such as psoriasis or eczema, make it easy for bacteria to enter
  • Frequent use of injectable drugs

Symptoms of Septic Arthritis

Symptoms of septic arthritis tend to develop very quickly within hours or days. Some of the symptoms that can be felt are:

  • The infected joint is swollen, red, and feels warm
  • Joint pain , especially when the joint is moved
  • Difficulty moving the leg at the infected joint
  • Fever, but only occurs in some sufferers
  • The body feels tired and weak

Babies with septic arthritis will be cranky and cry when the joint is moved, for example when their parents are changing diapers.

When to see a doctor

Immediately consult a doctor if you feel pain that develops quickly and makes it difficult for you to move the joint. You should also be vigilant if the joint looks swollen, reddish, feels warm, and has a fever.

Medications for rheumatoid arthritis can trigger septic arthritis. Therefore, people who are taking rheumatoid arthritis medication also need to see their doctor regularly to monitor the progress of the disease, as well as side effects that can arise.

Diagnosis of septic arthritis

The doctor will ask about the patient's symptoms, then examine the diseased joint. If the patient is suspected of having septic arthritis, the doctor will carry out a series of investigations as follows:

  • Arthrocentesis, which is taking a sample of joint fluid using a special needle to find out signs of infection
  • Blood tests, to monitor signs of inflammation due to infection through blood tests
  • X-rays , to get an idea of ​​how severe the joint damage is

Septic Arthritis Treatment

In treating septic arthritis, doctors will combine antibiotic drugs with draining joint fluid. The following is an explanation of the treatment methods for dealing with septic arthritis:


Antibiotics aim to treat the infection, as well as prevent the spread of infection more widely. The choice of this antibiotic depends on the type of germ causing the infection.

In the early stages, antibiotics will be given in injection form, then the drugs will be replaced with antibiotics that are taken. Antibiotic therapy can last 2–6 weeks.

Excessive spending of joint fluid

Giving antibiotics needs to be followed by draining fluid from the infected joint. This action aims to clean the infection completely.

Fluid removal can be done using a needle inserted into the joint cavity or by using an arthroscope, which is a tube-shaped instrument with a camera. This tool is inserted into the joint through a small incision to suck up and drain the infected fluid.

Arthroscopic procedures are sometimes difficult to perform on certain joints. Therefore, orthopedic doctors will recommend open surgery to drain infected joint fluid.

If not treated immediately, septic arthritis can cause dangerous complications. This happens because septic arthritis can cause permanent damage to joint structure and function.

Prevention of Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis can be prevented by avoiding things that increase the risk of this condition.

If you have an infection or wound on the skin, try to get the right treatment right away. If you have a skin condition that makes it easier for infection, such as psoriasis or eczema , moisturize your skin to prevent chapping.

For people who have just had joint surgery, periodic checks with an orthopedic doctor need to be done to monitor the surgical wound.

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