The Diagnosis of Periprosthetic Infection

Alfonso del Arco*, 1, María Luisa Bertrand2
1 Department of Clinical Internal Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Costa del Sol, University of Malaga, Spain
2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, Hospital Costa del Sol, University of Malaga, Spain

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© del Arco and Bertrand; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Hospital Costa del Sol, Autovía A-7 Km. 187, 29603, Marbella (Malaga), Spain; Tel: 34 951 97 66 69; E-mail:


Periprosthetic infection (PJI) is the most serious joint replacement complication, occurring in 0.8-1.9% of knee arthroplasties and 0.3-1.7% of hip arthroplasties. A definition of PJI was proposed in the November 2011 issue of the journal Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research. The presence of a fistula or of local inflammatory signs is indicative of PJI, but in many cases local pain is the only symptom. In the absence of underlying inflammatory conditions, C-reactive protein measurement is the most useful preoperative blood test for detecting infection associated with a prosthetic joint. The most useful preoperative diagnostic test is the aspiration of synovial joint fluid to obtain a total and differential cell count and culture. Intraoperative frozen sections of periprosthetic tissues produce excellent accuracy in predicting a diagnosis of PJI but only moderate accuracy in ruling out the diagnosis. In this process, obtaining a quality sample is the first step, and determines the quality of microbiological results. Specimens for culture should be obtained prior to the initiation of antibiotic treatment. Sonication of a removed implant may increase the culture yield. Plain radiography has low sensitivity and low specificity for detecting infection associated with a prosthetic joint. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging may be useful in the evaluation of complex cases, but metal inserts interfere with these tests, and abnormalities may be non-specific. Labelled-leucocyte imaging (e.g., leucocytes labelled with indium-111) combined with bone marrow imaging with the use of technetium-99m–labelled sulphur colloid is considered the imaging test of choice when imaging is necessary.

Keywords: : Diagnosis, periprosthetic infection, joint replacement, hip, knee..