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Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1991 Oct;21(2):81-7.

Septic arthritis in heroin addicts.

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  • 1Servicio de Reumatologia, Hospital Clinic i Provincial, Barcelona, Spain.


Over a 6-year period (1982 to 1988), 36 episodes of septic arthritis were diagnosed in 35 heroin addicts from Barcelona, Spain. Thirty (86%) were men and five (14%) were women, with a mean age of 24 years (range, 14 to 39). Twenty-nine episodes (80%) were monoarticular and seven (20%) were oligoarticular. The sacroiliac (16 cases), sternoclavicular (8), hip (5), and shoulder (4) joints were most frequently infected. Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were the etiological agents in 75% and 11% of episodes, respectively. Response to antibiotic treatment was good in 32 cases (90%), eight patients needed surgical drainage, and none died. We conclude that septic arthritis in heroin addicts localizes predominantly in axial joints. In our geographic area, infection with S aureus is more frequent than with gram-negative rods such as P aeruginosa or Serratia marcescens, which are most frequently found in reports from the United States.

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