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There are no guidelines on the value of suction drainage fluid culture (SDC), and it is difficult to determine whether the organisms cultured from suction drainage fluid samples are pathogenic or simply contaminants. We performed 2989 cultures of suction drainage fluid samples obtained, during a 1-year period, from 901 patients who underwent aseptic or septic orthopedic surgery (946 operations). The culture results were analyzed to evaluate their ability to detect postoperative infection after aseptic operations or to detect either a persistent or new episode of sepsis in patients known to have infection. For aseptic operations, the sensitivity of SDC was 25%, the specificity was 99%, the positive predictive value was 25%, and the negative predictive value was 99%. For septic operations, the sensitivity of SDC was 81%, the specificity was 96%, the positive predictive value was 87%, and the negative predictive value was 94%. We conclude that, for aseptic orthopedic surgery, SDC is not useful in detecting postoperative infection. However, for septic orthopedic surgery, it is of clinical importance.