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Septic arthritis is an infection in the joint fluid (synovial fluid) and joint tissues. It occurs more often in children than in adults. The infection usually reaches the joints through the bloodstream. In some cases, joints may become infected due to an injection, surgery, or injury.
Different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can infect a joint. The types that can cause septic arthritis include:
The most common type of bacteria that causes septic arthritis is called Staphylococcus aureus. It is also known as S. aureus. The bacteria can enter the body in a number of ways, such as:
Septic arthritis may occur without any known risk factors. However, children who have an open skin wound and an impaired immune systems due to diabetes, kidney disease, HIV infection, or cancer may be at greater risk of septic arthritis.
The most common joints affected by septic arthritis are the knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Most often, only one joint is affected. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child, but common symptoms include:
The symptoms of septic arthritis can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Early diagnosis of septic arthritis is important. This is to prevent permanent damage to the joint. The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. Tests may also be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child's symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Septic arthritis often needs treatment right away with antibiotics. This can improve symptoms within 48 hours. Some infections caused by fungi need treatment with antifungal medicine. Viral infections are not treated with medicine.
A fluid called pus may be drained from the joint. Build up of pus can damage the joint. The pus is drained with a needle, tube, or surgery. Other treatment may include:
Septic arthritis can cause joint damage. If the growth plate was affected, this may cause an arm or leg to not grow to the full adult length. The growth plate is the part of the bone where new bone is created. This area of the bone helps determine its final adult length. Make sure to follow up with your child's health care provider to prevent long-term complications.
If your child’s symptoms get worse or he or she has new symptoms, let the healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.