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Effective treatment of single-stage revision using intra-articular antibiotic infusion for culture-negative prosthetic joint infection

a comparative study

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In the absence of an identified organism, single-stage revision is contraindicated in prosthetic joint infection (PJI). However, no studies have examined the use of intra-articular antibiotics in combination with single-stage revision in these cases. In this study, we present the results of single-stage revision using intra-articular antibiotic infusion for treating culture-negative (CN) PJI.


A retrospective analysis between 2009 and 2016 included 51 patients with CN PJI who underwent single-stage revision using intra-articular antibiotic infusion; these were compared with 192 culture-positive (CP) patients. CN patients were treated according to a protocol including intravenous vancomycin and a direct intra-articular infusion of imipenem and vancomycin alternately used in the morning and afternoon. In the CP patients, pathogen-sensitive intravenous (IV) antibiotics were administered for a mean of 16 days (12 to 21), and for resistant cases, additional intra-articular antibiotics were used. The infection healing rate, Harris Hip Score (HHS), and Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) knee score were compared between CN and CP groups.


Of 51 CN patients, 46 (90.2%) required no additional medical treatment for recurrent infection at a mean of 53.2 months (24 to 72) of follow-up. Impaired kidney function occurred in two patients, and one patient had a local skin rash. No significant difference in the infection control rate was observed between CN and CP PJIs (90.2% (46/51) versus 94.3% (181/192); p = 0.297). The HHS of the CN group showed no substantial difference from that of CP cases (79 versus 81; p = 0.359). However, the CN group showed a mean HSS inferior to that of the CP group (76 versus 80; p = 0.027).


Single-stage revision with direct intra-articular antibiotic infusion can be effective in treating CN PJI, and can achieve an infection control rate similar to that in CP patients. However, in view of systemic toxicity, local adverse reactions, and higher costs, additional strong evidence is needed to verify these treatment regimens.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(3):336–344

Correspondence should be sent to Li Cao; E-mail:

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