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Bacterial Arthritis

Bacterial Septic Arthritis Causes

An episode of bacterial arthritis, or bacterial septic arthritis, is caused from a bacterium, virus, or fungi that makes its way into a joint.  This bacterium can be introduced either externally or internally.  Once in the joint, the bacterium will infect the synovial fluid within the joint.  It is referred to as arthritis because the infection causes the joint to degrade and lessen function of the joint.

The bacteria that causes arthritis is generally from internal conditions.  This means that another source of bacteria or infection elsewhere in the body travels to a joint and causes the joint to become septic, subsequently causing a degradation of the joint leading to arthritis.  One example of this occurrence is that of rheumatoid arthritis caused by bacteria, usually from the gut.  However, the autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis can be triggered by many other forms of bacterium, viruses, or fungi.  Some other internal conditions that can cause bacterial arthritis are:

  • The bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus (staph infections often related to skin) is the most common
  • Salmonella
  • Flu
  • Strep Throat
  • Coli
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis
  • Ebola
  • Mumps
  • Viruses such as HIV
  • Alcoholism
bacterial arthritis

Less commonly, a bacterium can enter the bloodstream that is introduced externally and make its way to a joint and become infected.  Some possible causes of this scenario include:

  • Cortisone injection
  • Broken bone with impaired integrity of the skin (broken skin)
  • Animal bites and other puncture wounds
  • Intravenous drug users
  • Sexually transmitted disease

The symptoms of bacterial septic arthritis will be more involved than those of a general arthritis of joints.  This is because of the active infection that is occurring and will most likely result in a high fever.  Some other symptoms that you may experience are:

  • Chills
  • Erythema (reddening of skin) and warmth of the joint
  • Significant swelling
  • Severe joint pain
  • Stiffness of joint

Bacterial arthritis treatments at Dr. Burke Orthopedics

Treatment of Bacterial Arthritis depends on first obtaining an accurate diagnosis.  Diagnosis of this condition is completed through an analysis of the joint fluid and blood tests.  Sometimes, X-rays or other imaging tests will be performed in order to assess the amount of damage to the joint.  If needed, phlegm, spinal fluid (which will involve a spinal tap), and analyzing urine may be requested in order to help determine the original source of infection. 

Once it is determined that you are experiencing bacterial septic arthritis in a joint, treatment may take many forms.  The appropriate choice of intervention for treatment will depend on several factors including the patient’s age, location of the infected joint, and severity.  Also, other underlying conditions and general health of the patient will be considered.

Hopefully treatment will only need a course of antibiotics or anti-fungal medication to help symptoms resolve.  Different antibiotics treat specific forms of bacteria, so an accurate diagnosis of what is causing the infection is vital.  If these options fail, the joint may have to be aspirated using a needle.  Drainage of the infected fluid will most likely be necessary.  This drainage may need to be performed for several days in a row.

A slightly more involved procedure would involve a scope of the knee in which a camera is inserted into the joint as well as drainage tubes.  Failure of both of these techniques to completely remove the infected fluid from the joint, may be an indication on the need for open joint surgery.  If surgery is needed, drains will be left in place in order to continue the drainage of excess fluid that may accumulate after the procedure.

Reach out today and make an appointment to consult with Dr. Burke regarding the best treatment options for arthritis pain. New and current patients can choose between in clinic or Telemedicine Video clinic appointments, whichever is more preferred. The arthritis relief you need is just a phone call or click away. Please make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Burke by visiting the website or by calling (713) 436-3488.

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.