How are medications selected for the treatment of septic arthritis?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The empirical choice of antibiotic therapy is based on results of the Gram stain and the clinical picture and background of the patient. When the Gram stain fails to reveal any microorganisms (40-50% of cases), the individual's age and sexual activity become the major determinants to differentiate gonococcal from nongonococcal arthritis. When no evidence suggests infection elsewhere, antibiotics must cover S aureus, streptococcal species, and gonococci (in patients who are sexually active).

Evidence shows that earlier initiation of an appropriate antibiotic regimen produces better functional results. Generally, treatment is administered intravenously for 3-4 weeks. The major exception to this is in the case of joints with gonococcal infection, for which total therapy is approximately 2 weeks, with switch to oral therapy. No indication exists for direct installation of antibiotics into the joint cavity. Such practice may increase the degree of inflammation.

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