Septic Arthritis


Symptoms usually come on quickly. There is a fever, and joint swelling that is usually in just one joint. There is also intense joint pain, which gets worse with movement.

Symptoms in newborns or infants:

  • Cries when infected joint is moved (example: diaper change causes crying if hip joint is infected)
  • Fever
  • Inability to move the limb with the infected joint (pseudoparalysis)
  • Irritability

Symptoms in children and adults:

  • Inability to move the limb with the infected joint (pseudoparalysis)
  • Intense joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint redness
  • Fever
  • Chills may occur, but are uncommon.
Tests to diagnose: 

The tests include:

  • Aspiration of joint fluid for cell count, examination of crystals under the microscope, gram stain, and culture
  • Blood culture
  • X-ray of affected joint

Septic arthritis is treated with antibiotics. You will normally need to stay in hospital for at least two weeks to have antibiotics given to you intravenously (directly into a vein).

You may need to rest in bed for a few days to take pressure off the affected joint and you will be given medication to relieve the pain.

You might also have the fluid drained from your infected joint using a needle and syringe, or during a procedure called an arthroscopy (where a fine, metal tube is inserted through a small incision near the affected joint). This will normally be done by the orthopaedic surgeon.

After you finish the course of intravenous antibiotics, you'll probably need to take antibiotic tablets at home for at least another four weeks.

You should completely recover after antibiotic treatment, although some people still experience persistent limited movement in the affected joint.