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Septic Arthritis

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Treatment for sepctic arthritis is given to eliminate the infection, reduce inflammation and associated fluid pressure on the joint, minimize joint damage, and maintain and/or recover joint mobility. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent the destruction of joints, which can occur within days or hours.

The primary treatment is joint drainage and appropriate antimicrobial therapy, which may require intravenous antibiotics.

Fluid is usually aspirated from the affected joint(s) to relieve pressure and to analyze in order to identify the specific microorganism causing the infection. In some cases, surgery may be needed to drain the infected joint fluid.

The choice of medication prescribed will depend on the susceptibility of the microorganism to a panel of antibiotics tested and how effective the antimicrobials are at getting into the joint space where the infection is. The health care provider may not wait, however, for the laboratory results before starting treatment to reduce the chances of joint destruction. With some organisms, such as mycobacteria, multiple drugs may need to be taken for extended periods of time. Viral infections will usually resolve without any antiviral therapy.

Patients may also be treated for inflammation and pain with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), and physical therapy may be recommended.

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