The diagnostic protocol for evaluation of periprosthetic joint infection
Infection is becoming the most important as well as the most devastating mechanism of prosthetic joint failure. The incidence is increasing due to increased sensitivity of orthopedic surgeons for this diagnosis, better diagnostics, and because the absolute number of operated patients is increasing and because more often very sick, debilitated, and immunocompromised patients are operated on. The trend shows the incidence to further increase in the years to come. The diagnosis may be very easy in case of high grade processes, but also extremely difficult in low grade infections. Misdiagnosing infection leads to repeat early failures and revisions that are distressing for patients as well as for surgeons. To avoid failures related to misdiagnosed prosthetic joint infections a step-wise algorithm of action is proposed and the diagnostic strength of the steps discussed. The key point is to select the potential candidates to define the possibility of an ongoing infection and then to select the tools to strengthen the suspicion. The further procedures base on the analysis of the pseudo-synovial fluid obtained by aspiration. The diagnostic conclusions form the basis for considered treatment decisions.
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