What do positive and negative Cutibacterium culture results in periprosthetic shoulder infection mean? A multi-institutional control study

American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) Periprosthetic Joint Infection (PJI) Multicenter Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Deep tissue culture specimens obtained at the time of revision shoulder arthroplasty are commonly positive for Cutibacterium. Clinical interpretation of positive cultures can be difficult. This was a multi-institutional study evaluating the accuracy of cultures for Cutibacterium using positive control (PC) and negative control (NC) samples. The relationship between time to culture positivity and strength of culture positivity was also studied. Methods: Eleven different institutions were each sent 12 blinded samples (10 PC and 2 NC samples). The 10 PC samples included 2 sets of 5 different dilutions of a Cutibacterium isolate from a failed total shoulder arthroplasty with a probable periprosthetic infection. At each institution, the samples were handled as if they were received from the operating room. Specimen growth, time to culture positivity, and strength of culture positivity (based on semiquantitative assessment) were reported. Results: A total of 110 PC samples and 22 NC samples were tested. One hundred percent of specimens at the 4 highest dilutions were positive for Cutibacterium. At the lowest dilution, 91% of samples showed positive findings. Cutibacterium grew in 14% of NC samples. Cutibacterium grew in PC samples at an average of 4.0 ± 1.3 days, and all of these samples showed growth within 7 days. The time to positivity was significantly shorter (P < .001) and the strength of positivity was significantly higher (P < .001) in true-positive cultures compared with false-positive cultures. Conclusions: This multi-institutional study suggests that different institutions may report highly consistent rates of culture positivity for revision shoulder arthroplasty samples with higher bacterial loads. In contrast, with lower bacterial loads, the results are somewhat less consistent. Clinicians should consider using a shorter time to positivity and a higher strength of positivity as adjuncts in determining whether a tissue culture sample is a true positive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • bacterial load
  • Case-Control Design
  • Cutibacterium
  • Diagnostic Study
  • Level IV
  • negative and positive control
  • periprosthetic joint infection
  • periprosthetic shoulder infection
  • time to positivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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