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Plymouth Paediatric Orthopaedics

Septic Arthritis

Septic arthritis is an infection inside a joint. It is an extremely painful condition, and can make your child extremely unwell. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential to minimise harm to your child and their affected joint.

Initially children complain of feeling generally unwell with pain in the affected joint, which may cause them to limp, or not move it voluntarily. Later the affected joint can feel hot, look red and be associated with a temperature. These signs and symptoms can be difficult to pick up in the hip joint due to it being a deep structure. Your child may have had a mild illness such as sore throat or cough a few weeks beforehand.
Diagnosis depends on a combination of signs and symptoms, blood tests, x-rays, and ultimately an aspiration of the joint under a general anaesthetic. If at the time of the aspiration pus is found in the joint, the surgical team would proceed to open up the joint in order to wash it out. Broad spectrum antibiotics given intra-venously are used until the antibiotic sensitivities are known from the samples taken. Antibiotics are usually required for many weeks, initially in hospital then later taken orally at home.

The reason that we take septic arthritis so seriously, is that if left untreated it destroys the joint causing early onset arthritis, and can potentially cause your child to become seriously unwell with systemic sepsis.