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Bacterial arthritis: Treatment and outcome in infants and children

Paul Krogstad, MD
Section Editors
Sheldon L Kaplan, MD
William Phillips, MD
Thomas JA Lehman, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Infections of the joints (known as septic arthritis, pyogenic arthritis, suppurative arthritis, purulent arthritis, or pyarthrosis) may be caused by bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria, and viruses. The term "septic arthritis" usually refers to bacterial arthritis or fungal arthritis, but bacterial joint infections are most common [1,2].

The treatment and outcome of bacterial arthritis in infants and children will be reviewed here. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, microbiology, clinical features, and diagnosis of bacterial arthritis in infants and children are discussed separately. (See "Bacterial arthritis: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and microbiology in infants and children" and "Bacterial arthritis: Clinical features and diagnosis in infants and children".)

The treatment of arthritis due to Lyme disease is also discussed separately. (See "Treatment of Lyme disease", section on 'Arthritis'.)


Bacterial arthritis requires prompt recognition and management. Delays in treatment are associated with long-term damage to bones and joints, particularly when the hip or shoulder joint is involved. (See 'Outcome' below.)

Goals — The goals of treatment include sterilization and decompression of the joint space and removal of inflammatory debris to relieve pain and prevent deformity or functional sequelae [1,3]. Drainage of joint fluid and antimicrobial therapy are the cornerstones of therapy.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 20, 2017.
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