How is gonococcal arthritis treated?

Updated: Jan 12, 2019
  • Author: Victoria Fernandes Sullivan, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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When septic arthritis is suspected, empiric antibiotics directed against likely pathogens should be used until confirmatory laboratory data are available. Antibiotic coverage in healthy hosts should initially include gram-positive organisms, which account for approximately 80% of nongonococcal monoarthritis cases (Staphylococcus aureus, 60%; non–group A Streptococcus species, 15%; S pneumoniae, 3%). Gram-negative organisms (18%) should be covered in patients who are immunocompromised, elderly, or otherwise at risk.

Most patients with suspected acute infectious arthritis, including gonococcal arthritis, should be hospitalized to establish a diagnosis and to monitor for improvement or complications. Daily synovial fluid drainage is recommended for purulent effusions associated with gonococcal arthritis. Surgical drainage is needed when arthrocentesis is ineffective. The transition to oral antibiotics can usually be made 24-48 hours after clinical improvement.

Bed rest during hospitalization and brief immobilization of the septic joint aid in decreasing pain, especially when nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not used.

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