header advert
You currently have no access to view or download this content. Please log in with your institutional or personal account if you should have access to through either of these
The Bone & Joint Journal Logo

Receive monthly Table of Contents alerts from The Bone & Joint Journal

Comprehensive article alerts can be set up and managed through your account settings

View my account settings

Get Access locked padlock


Limited diagnostic value of serum inflammatory biomarkers in the diagnosis of fracture-related infections

Download PDF



The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic value of preoperative serum CRP, white blood cell count (WBC), percentage of neutrophils (%N), and neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR) when using the fracture-related infection (FRI) consensus definition.


A cohort of 106 patients having surgery for suspected septic nonunion after failed fracture fixation were studied. Blood samples were collected preoperatively, and the concentration of serum CRP, WBC, and differential cell count were analyzed. The areas under the curve (AUCs) of diagnostic tests were compared using the z-test. Regression trees were constructed and internally cross-validated to derive a simple diagnostic decision tree.


Using the FRI consensus definition, 46 patients (43%) were identified as infected. Sensitivity, specificity, and AUC of CRP were 67% (95% confidence interval (CI) 52% to 80%), 61% (95% CI 47% to 74%), and 0.64 (95% CI 0.54 to 0.74); of WBC count were 17% (95% CI 9% to 31%), 95% (95% CI 86% to 99%), and 0.57 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.62); of %N 13% (95% CI 6% to 26%), 87% (95% CI 76% to 93%), and 0.50 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.56); and of NLR 28% (95% CI 17% to 43%), 80% (95% CI 68% to 88%), and 0.54 (95% CI 0.46 to 0.63), respectively. A better performance of serum CRP was shown in comparison to the leucocyte count (p = 0.006), %N (p < 0.001), and NLR (p = 0.001). A statistically lower serum CRP level was shown in patients with an infection caused by a low virulence microorganism in comparison to high virulence bacteria (p = 0.008). We found that a simple decision tree approach using only low serum neutrophils (< 3.615 × 109/l) and low CRP (< 2.45 mg/l) may allow better identification of aseptic cases.


The evaluated serum inflammatory markers showed limited diagnostic value in the preoperative diagnosis of FRI when using the uniform FRI Consensus Definition. Therefore, they should remain as suggestive criteria in diagnosing FRI. Although CRP showed a higher performance in comparison to the other serum markers, it is insufficiently accurate to diagnose a septic nonunion, especially when caused by low virulence microorganisms.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(7):904–911.

Correspondence should be sent to Martin A. McNally. E-mail:

For access options please click here