Septic Arthritis in Postoperative Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

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A review of postoperative infected anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions was done on 3500 consecutive arthroscopic procedures. The purpose was to assess incidence, diagnosis, treatment, and outcome factors. Six postoperative intraarticular infections were detected. Average followup was 3 years (range, 2–8 years). The rate of infection was 0.14%. Five men and one woman with a median age of 32.5 years (range, 20–51 years) comprised the study group. The average interval from the onset of symptoms to the initial arthroscopic intervention was 7.5 days (range, 2–20 days). Staphylococcus aureus was present in three knees, Staphylococcus epidermidis in two, and Streptococcus nonhemolytic in one. All patients had initial arthroscopic debridement and lavage followed by 6 weeks of intravenous antibiotics. Two grafts were removed: one patient had delayed ligament reconstruction and the other had total knee arthroplasty. The remaining patients had full range of motion. In the group with the best result, two patients had Staphylococcus epidermidis and one had Staphylococcus aureus, which was treated 2 days after clinical symptoms began. The other two patients infected with Staphylococcus aureus had unsatisfactory results. Anterior cruciate ligament infection is rare, but diagnosable. When treated early with appropriate antibiotic therapy and arthroscopic debridement, four of six grafts were retained. If the infection does not respond rapidly to early therapy, then graft removal is an option.

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