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Pediatr Int. 2002 Dec;44(6):652-7.

Septic arthritis in patients followed-up in neonatal intensive care unit.

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Erciyes University, School of Medicine, Kayseri, Turkey.



Septic arthritis is an uncommon, but serious disorder in neonates. Most patients survive with permanent handicaps. Due to the rarity of this condition in neonates and paucity of signs and symptoms, the diagnosis of septic arthritis in newborns is more difficult than in older children.


Septic arthritis or suppurative arthritis is an infection of the joint by a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, mycobacteria and fungi. Purulent synovial fluid, positive culture and positive Gram stain were accepted as a gold standard for exact diagnosis. Fourteen neonates who were followed-up in a neonatal intensive care unit, with septic arthritis, were included in a study based on a review of medical reports and a long-term clinical and radiological follow-up. Clinical symptoms, bacteriology, risk factors and outcomes are discussed.


Staphylococcus aureus was the predominant causative organism. Risk factors for septic arthritis were prematurity (4/14), umbilical catheterization or venous catheterization (3/14), sepsis (3/14), perinatal asphyxia (2/14) and difficult birth (1/14). All cases of septic arthritis in neonates were improved without squealae except in two patients. One patient died and one patient had severe squealae. In these two patients, the duration of disease from clinical onset to initiation of therapy was long.


The most important prognostic factor in predicting a favorable outcome in neonatal septic arthritis is early diagnosis and therapy. When appropriate treatment is delayed, catastrophic sequelae are inevitable. Early diagnosis of the condition and rapid removal of pus are mandatory for the survival of the joint. Long-term follow-up may reveal effects of epiphyseal damage, early degenerative changes and limitation of the range of motion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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