• Vol. 33 No. 2, 228–234
  • 15 March 2004

Septic Arthritis after Arthroscopic Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction



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Introduction: A retrospective review of postoperative infected anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction was done on 472 consecutive cases in one institution. The purpose was to assess the incidence, diagnosis, treatment and outcome factors.

Materials and Methods: Out of 472 arthroscopic-assisted ACL reconstructions performed between 1999 and 2002, 7 (1%) postoperative deep intra-articular infections were detected. Seven males with a mean age of 23 years (range, 19 to 30 years) formed the study group; 3 had undergone prior knee surgery.

Results: Four patients had acute infection (<2 weeks), 3 had subacute infection (2 weeks to 2 months) and none had late infection (>2 months). All were admitted within 24 hours of onset of symptoms and underwent immediate arthroscopic lavage, incision and drainage of abscess, debridement with graft retention and intravenous (8 to 31 days) followed by oral (4 to 6 weeks) antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus was present in 4 patients, Peptostreptococcus in 3, Klebsiella in 1, and Enterobacter in 1. The patients underwent an average of 1.4 arthroscopic procedures (range, 1 to 3 procedures), with an average hospital stay of 17.3 days per patient. All were evaluated at an average of 11.7 months (range, 5 to 26 months). In all cases, the infection resolved with stable knees and with all grafts and implants retained. Although rare, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of infection can result in successful eradication without sacrificing the graft.

Arthroscopic-guided reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is now recognised as the preferred reconstructive option in restoring anterior knee joint stability. According to a report by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons on ACL reconstruction in October 2000, approximately 50,000 ACL surgeries were performed each year in the United States (US). Like any surgical procedure, a number of potential complications have been recognised that may affect the functional outcome.

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