What is the role of PCR in the diagnosis of septic arthritis?

Updated: Sep 19, 2017
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) holds promise for detection of bacterial DNA in joint fluid and synovial tissue. PCR has led to diagnosis of infective arthritis due to Yersinia species, B burgdorferi, Chlamydia species, N gonorrhoeae, and Ureaplasma species. However, caveats concerning this approach are raised, because it cannot be used to distinguish between live and dead organisms and it is susceptible to contamination.

PCR also techniques hold some promise in detecting pathogens in patients who have recently received antibiotics. Unfortunately, many patients receive empirically administered antibiotics before the collection of synovial fluid.


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