Culture-Negative Periprosthetic Joint Infection: An Update on What to Expect

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Abstract

Background:

Culture-negative periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) is a challenging condition to treat. The most appropriate management of culture-negative PJI is not known, and there is immense variability in the treatment outcome of this condition. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the characteristics, outcomes, and risk factors for failure of treatment of culture-negative PJI.

Methods:

A retrospective review of 219 patients (138 hips and 81 knees) who had undergone surgery for the treatment of culture-negative PJI was performed utilizing a prospectively collected institutional PJI database. PJIs for which the results of culture were unavailable were excluded. An electronic query and manual review of the medical records were completed to obtain patient demographics, treatment, microbiology data, comorbidities, and other surgical characteristics. Treatment failure was assessed using the Delphi consensus criteria.

Results:

The prevalence of suspected culture-negative PJI was 22.0% (219 of 996), and the prevalence of culture-negative PJI as defined by the Musculoskeletal Infection Society (MSIS) was 6.4% (44 of 688). Overall, the rate of treatment success was 69.2% (110 of 159) in patients with >1 year of follow-up. Of the 49 culture-negative PJIs for which treatment failed, 26 (53.1%) subsequently had positive cultures; of those 26, 10 (38.5%) were positive for methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus. The rate of treatment success was greater (p = 0.019) for patients who had 2-stage exchange than for those who underwent irrigation and debridement.

Conclusions:

The present study demonstrates that culture-negative PJI is a relatively frequent finding with unacceptable rates of treatment failure. Every effort should be made to isolate the infecting organism prior to surgical intervention, including extending the incubation period for cultures, withholding antibiotics prior to obtaining culture specimens, and possibly using newly introduced molecular techniques.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence

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