Children with Primary Septic Arthritis Have a Markedly Lower Risk of Adverse Outcomes Than Those with Contiguous Osteomyelitis

Elizabeth C. Hamilton, Mary C Villani, Mary M. Klosterman, Chanhee Jo, Jie Liu, Lawson A.B. Copley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background:It is widely believed that septic arthritis poses a risk of joint destruction and long-term adverse outcomes for children if not treated emergently. In the present study, children who had primary confirmed septic arthritis were compared with those who had septic arthritis and adjacent osteomyelitis to evaluate differences that affect the relative risk of adverse outcomes.Methods:Children who underwent multidisciplinary treatment for septic arthritis with or without contiguous osteomyelitis between 2009 and 2019 were retrospectively studied. Clinical, laboratory, treatment, and outcome data were compared between cohorts of children with primary confirmed septic arthritis and children with septic arthritis and contiguous osteomyelitis.Results:One hundred and thirty-four children had primary confirmed septic arthritis, and 105 children had septic arthritis with contiguous osteomyelitis. Children with osteomyelitis were older (median, 7.4 versus 2.4 years), had higher initial C-reactive protein (median, 15.7 versus 6.4 mg/dL), and had a higher rate of thrombocytopenia (21.0% versus 1.5%). They also had a higher rate of bacteremia (69.5% versus 20.2%) for a longer duration (median, 2.0 versus 1.0 days). Detected pathogens in children with osteomyelitis as compared with those with primary septic arthritis were more likely to be Staphylococcus aureus (77.1% versus 32.1%) and less likely to be Kingella kingae (2.9% versus 32.1%). Children with contiguous osteomyelitis had longer hospitalizations (median, 8.0 versus 4.0 days), a higher rate of intensive care (21.0% versus 1.5%), a higher readmission rate (17.1% versus 5.2%), and a higher complication rate (38.1% versus 0.7%).Conclusions:Primary septic arthritis in children is dissimilar to septic arthritis associated with osteomyelitis. The present study demonstrates that long-term adverse outcomes in children with septic arthritis are likely due to the contiguous osteomyelitis. Children with primary septic arthritis are sufficiently distinguishable from those who have contiguous osteomyelitis to guide decisions for magnetic resonance imaging acquisition, duration of antibiotic therapy, and length of outpatient follow-up in order to recognize and address adverse outcomes.Level of Evidence:Prognostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1237
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - American Volume
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 7 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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