Septic arthritis is a medical emergency. Doctors who treat septic arthritis include emergency physicians, internists, rheumatologists, orthopedists, infectious-disease physicians, and rehabilitation-medicine providers.
If your symptoms suggest septic arthritis, your GP will refer you to your nearest A&E department immediately for an assessment.
The following tests typically help diagnose septic arthritis:
Joint fluid analysis. Infections can alter the color, consistency, volume and makeup of the fluid within your joints. A sample of this fluid can be withdrawn from your affected joint with a needle. Laboratory tests can determine what organism is causing your infection, so your doctor will know which medications to prescribe.
Blood tests. These can determine if there are signs of infection in your blood. A sample of your blood is removed from a vein with a needle.
Septic arthritis is treated with antibiotics and drainage of the infected joint (synovial) fluid from the joint.
Doctors rely on joint drainage and antibiotic drugs to treat septic arthritis.
Removing the infected joint fluid is crucial. Drainage methods include:
Needle. In some cases, your doctor can withdraw the infected fluid with a needle inserted into the joint space.
Scope procedure. In arthroscopy (ahr-THROS-kuh-pee), a flexible tube with a video camera at its tip is placed in your joint through a small incision. Suction and drainage tubes are then inserted through small incisions around your joint.
Open surgery. Some joints, such as the hip, are more difficult to drain with a needle or arthroscopy, so an open surgical procedure might be necessary.
To select the most effective medication, your doctor must identify the microbe causing your infection. Antibiotics are usually given through a vein in your arm at first. Later, you may be able to switch to oral antibiotics.
Typically, treatment lasts from two to six weeks. Antibiotics carry a risk of side effects, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Allergic reactions also can occur. Ask your doctor about what side effects to expect from your medication.