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Arthroscopy. 2000 Mar;16(2):173-7.

An unusual epidemic of Staphylococcus-negative infections involving anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with salvage of the graft and function.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hospital San Giovanni, Paolo, Venice, Italy.


We performed a retrospective study of 13 patients who had postoperative clinical and laboratory signs of infection after autogenous bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions. From January 1991 to November 1996 we experienced only 2 infected knees in 1,300 reconstructions, but between December 1996 and February 1997 10 patients in 70 ACL reconstructions developed a postoperative suspected infection. We found the origin of contamination (coagulase-negative Staphylococcus) in the supposedly sterile inflow cannula. When we changed this device, we had only 1 infection in the next 400 reconstructions. The diagnosis in these cases was derived from clinical signs and laboratory results, but only 2 of 11 samples of aspirated synovial fluid tested positive for Staphylococcus. The mean interval between the surgery and the onset of signs of infection and the start of antibiotic therapy was 7.7 days. All the patients had antibiotic association at the highest level. Six knees underwent arthroscopic debridement when the clinical signs indicated resistence to antibiotics. The normal postoperative rehabilitation program was modified but was not discontinued. Although recovery time was longer, overall results were similar to uncomplicated reconstructions. On the basis of our experience, we believe that when there is a notable increase in infection rates, a thorough search for contamination is indicated. Our source of infection was material that was thought to be sterile. Ultimately, early diagnosis and treatment is of critical importance to obtain good results. Even suspicion of infective postoperative complication should be sufficient cause to search for responsible microorganisms and begin antibiotic therapy. Arthroscopic debridement should be proposed to patients with resistence to antibiotics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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