Arthritis Home > Septic Arthritis Treatment

Antibiotics are typically the first line of treatment for septic arthritis. The antibiotic used will depend on which type of bacteria is causing the condition. Treatment may also involve draining the infected joint. Children with septic arthritis often require surgery; surgery may also be recommended to treat infections affecting the hip. In the early stages of the disease, treatment may also include splinting the joint.

How Is Septic Arthritis Treated?

Treatment for septic arthritis needs to be received as soon as possible to reduce the risk of permanent joint damage. Treatment usually involves the use of antibiotics. It may also involve draining the infected joint.

Antibiotics Used to Treat Septic Arthritis

The specific antibiotic the healthcare provider recommends for septic arthritis treatment will depend on the results of the synovial fluid analysis. If no bacteria are seen in the synovial fluid, the choice of antibiotic will be based on the person's age; certain types of bacteria are more likely to cause septic arthritis in people belonging to certain age groups.
For example, in infants under one year of age, the most common cause of septic arthritis is Staphylococcus aureus or Group B Strep. Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus are the most common septic arthritis causes in children younger than five years of age. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause in children age five and older. In cases involving adults, the most common cause of septic arthritis is an infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae (the bacteria that cause gonorrhea).
Initially, antibiotics are administered intravenously (through an IV). After a period of time, the healthcare provider will often switch the person to antibiotics taken by mouth. The length of treatment with antibiotics will depend on the specific type of bacteria responsible for the condition. Streptococcal arthritis can usually be cured with antibiotics in 10 to 14 days. Septic arthritis caused by other types of bacteria may require three to six weeks of treatment.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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