Nigerian Journal of Medicine

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Outcome of management of non-gonococcal septic arthritis at national orthopaedic hospital, Enugu, Nigeria

G.O Eyichukw, N.O.C Onyemaechi, E.C Onyegbule


Septic arthritis is an acute bacterial infection of a synovial joint. It is an orthopaedic emergency that can lead to morbidity or mortality if
not properly treated. The fundamental issues in the management of septic arthritis include the duration of antibiotic therapy, the mode of joint drainage and the role of physiotherapy. There is paucity of local data on septic arthritis in Nigeria. The study was carried out at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu; a regional trauma and orthopaedic center with wide catchments area covering at least three geopolitical zones of Nigeria.The objective of the study is to describe the pattern and distribution of non-gonococcal septic arthritis, the causative organisms, and the outcome of management of this condition at Enugu, Nigeria and make recommendations on the antibiotic therapy. A retrospective study of all the patients that presented at the National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu with Non-gonococcal septic arthritis between January 1997 and December, 2006 was done. The patient's case notes were retrieved from the Medical Record Department. Information extracted and analyzed included demographic data, joints affected, cultured organisms, antibiotic sensitivity pattern, duration of parenteral and oral antibiotics therapy, complications and follow-up period. Patients with incomplete records, immunecompromised patients and those with subjacent osteomyelitis were excluded from the study. Forty-three patients were seen within the period and 40 had analyzable data. The age range was 1 month to 39 years, with a mean age of 10.2 years. Twenty-one patients (52.5%) were males and 19 (47.5%) were females. The hip joint was the most commonly affected (47.5%). Staphylococcus aureus was the most common organism (50%), followed by Coliforms (42.5%). Most patients (75%) had parenteral antibiotics for 3-5 days, while 77.5% of patients received oral antibiotics for 2-4 weeks. All the patients had arthrotomy and joint irrigation within 48 hours of admission. Complications were recorded in 11 patients (27.5%). Fixed flexion deformity was the commonest complication (17.5%). No mortality was recorded. Septic arthritis is an orthopaedic emergency. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment with appropriate antibiotics and surgical drainage are the keys to a successful outcome. In our environment (Enugu), the coliforms are competing favourably with staphylococcus aureus as causative agents of septic arthritis. Short term parenteral antibiotics of 3 – 5 days seems to be as effective as the 1 – 2 weeks therapy in the non-immune compromised patients and in cases not complicated by juxtarticular osteomyelitis or presence of prosthetic implants.

Keywords: Septic arthritis, antibiotic therapy, outcomeof treatment.
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