Septic arthritis causes

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Venkata Sivakrishna Kumar Pulivarthi M.B.B.S [2]


Septic arthritis develops when bacteria or tiny disease-causing microorganisms that spread through the bloodstream to a synovium. It may also occur when the joint is directly infected with a microorganism from an injury or during surgery.[1] The most common etiological agent of all nongonococcal causes of septic arthritis in the United States is Staphylococcus aureus.[2] The most common sites for this type of infection are the knee and hip. Most cases of acute septic arthritis are caused by bacteria such as staphylococcus or streptococcus. Chronic septic arthritis (which is less common) is caused by organisms such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Candida albicans.Gram-negative bacilli account for 10 to 20% of septic arthritis causes.[2] ~10% of patients with nongonococcal septic arthritis are due to polymicrobial cause of infections. Anaerobes are also can cause septic arthritis in few cases.


Gram-negative bacilli account for 10 to 20% of septic arthritis causes.[2] ~10% of patients with nongonococcal septic arthritis are due to polymicrobial cause of infections. Anaerobes are also can cause septic arthritis in few cases. Most common cause of septic arthritis in children age < 2 years are Haemophilus influenzae (in immunized children), Staph. aureus, group A Streptococcal infections and Kingella kingae.[3] The source of infection in most of the cases (~50%) often from the skin, lungs or bladder.

Common Causes

Common microorganisms causing septic arthritis includes:[4][5][6][4][7][4][8]

Less Common Causes

Microorganism or other infectious disease Associated risk factors Key clinical clues
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus pyogenes

Streptococcal pneumonia

  • Healthy adults with spleenic dysfunction
Groups B Streptococcal infection
  • Healthy adults with spleenic dysfunction
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Gram-negative bacilli
Haemophilus influenzae
  • Unimmunized children[14]
Mycobacterium spp.
  • Recent history of travel to endemic areas
  • Immunocompromised patients
  • Recent history of travel to endemic areas (e.g. India, South Africa, Mexico etc.)
  • Incidious onset of monoarthritis
Fungal infection such as
Mycoplasma hominis
  • Recent history of urinary tract procedure
Viral arthritis
HIV infection
  • History of multiple sexual partners
  • History of IVDA
Lyme disease
  • History of recent visit to endemic Lyme area
Reactive arthritis
  • Recent gastrointestinal/ genitourinary infection


  1. Dubost JJ, Fis I, Denis P, Lopitaux R, Soubrier M, Ristori JM et al. (1993) Polyarticular septic arthritis. Medicine (Baltimore) 72 (5):296-310. PMID: 8412643
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Deesomchok U, Tumrasvin T (1990) Clinical study of culture-proven cases of non-gonococcal arthritis. J Med Assoc Thai 73 (11):615-23. PMID: 2283490
  3. Yagupsky P, Bar-Ziv Y, Howard CB, Dagan R (1995) Epidemiology, etiology, and clinical features of septic arthritis in children younger than 24 months. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 149 (5):537-40. PMID: 7735407
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 O'Callaghan C, Axford JS (2004). Medicine (2nd ed. ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Science. ISBN 0-632-05162-0.
  5. Bowerman SG, Green NE, Mencio GA (1997) Decline of bone and joint infections attributable to haemophilus influenzae type b. Clin Orthop Relat Res (341):128-33. PMID: 9269165
  6. Peltola H, Kallio MJ, Unkila-Kallio L (1998) Reduced incidence of septic arthritis in children by Haemophilus influenzae type-b vaccination. Implications for treatment. J Bone Joint Surg Br 80 (3):471-3. PMID: 9619939
  7. Topics in Infectious Diseases Newsletter, August 2001, Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  8. Kaandorp CJ, Dinant HJ, van de Laar MA, Moens HJ, Prins AP, Dijkmans BA (1997) Incidence and sources of native and prosthetic joint infection: a community based prospective survey. Ann Rheum Dis 56 (8):470-5. PMID: 9306869
  9. Goldenberg DL, Cohen AS (1976) Acute infectious arthritis. A review of patients with nongonococcal joint infections (with emphasis on therapy and prognosis). Am J Med 60 (3):369-77. PMID: 769545
  10. 10.0 10.1 Le Dantec L, Maury F, Flipo RM, Laskri S, Cortet B, Duquesnoy B et al. (1996) Peripheral pyogenic arthritis. A study of one hundred seventy-nine cases. Rev Rhum Engl Ed 63 (2):103-10. PMID: 8689280
  11. Vassilopoulos D, Chalasani P, Jurado RL, Workowski K, Agudelo CA (1997) Musculoskeletal infections in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection. Medicine (Baltimore) 76 (4):284-94. PMID: 9279334
  12. Morgan DS, Fisher D, Merianos A, Currie BJ (1996) An 18 year clinical review of septic arthritis from tropical Australia. Epidemiol Infect 117 (3):423-8. PMID: 8972665
  13. Schattner A, Vosti KL (1998) Bacterial arthritis due to beta-hemolytic streptococci of serogroups A, B, C, F, and G. Analysis of 23 cases and a review of the literature. Medicine (Baltimore) 77 (2):122-39. PMID: 9556703
  14. De Jonghe M, Glaesener G (1995) [Type B Haemophilus influenzae infections. Experience at the Pediatric Hospital of Luxembourg.] Bull Soc Sci Med Grand Duche Luxemb 132 (2):17-20. PMID: 7497542
  15. Luttrell LM, Kanj SS, Corey GR, Lins RE, Spinner RJ, Mallon WJ et al. (1994) Mycoplasma hominis septic arthritis: two case reports and review. Clin Infect Dis 19 (6):1067-70. PMID: 7888535

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