Diagnosis and isolation of a causative organism is imperative for successful treatment of periprosthetic joint infections (PJI). While there are several diagnostic algorithms using microbiology, serum and synovial markers, the preoperative diagnosis of a low-grade infection remains a challenge, particularly in patients with unsuccessful aspiration. An incisional biopsy may be used in these cases as additional diagnostic tool. In this retrospective study we evaluated microbiological findings, sensitivity, and specificity of open synovial biopsies in cases of inconclusive preoperative diagnostics.
In a retrospective databank analysis (2010–2018), we identified 80 TKAs that underwent an open biopsy because of inconclusive results after applying the CDC Criteria (2010) or the MSIS (2011–2018) for PJI. Infection makers in the serum (C-reactive protein [CRP], leucocytes count and interleukin-6 [IL-6]) and in the synovial aspirate (leucocyte count, percentage of neutrophiles) prior to the biopsy were analyzed. All biopsies were performed by suprapatellar mini-arthrotomy. If a subsequent revision surgery was performed, the isolated organisms in the open biopsy were compared to the results in the revision surgery and sensitivity and specificity were calculated. Serum markers were checked for correlation with a positive result in the open biopsy using Cramer-V and Chi2-Test.
A positive result in the open biopsy occurred in 32 cases (40%) while 48 cases (60%) showed no growth of microorganisms. A preoperative elevated serum CRP (≥1mg/dl) showed a significant correlation for a positive biopsy (p=0.04). The odds ratio for a positive biopsy was 2.57 (95% CI 1.02–6.46) with elevated serum CRP. A revision surgery of the TKA with additional tissue sampling was performed in 27 (84%) cases with a positive biopsy and in 32 (67%) cases with a negative biopsy. The intraoperative tissue samples from the revision surgery showed microbial growth in only 52% of cases that were believed to be culture positive from the biopsy results, while positive cultures occurred in 41% of the cases with an initially negative biopsy. Patients with ≥ two cultures of the same microorganism in the biopsy presented a positive result in 73% of their revision surgeries.
The open biopsy showed a sensitivity of 48% with a specificity of 62% in our collective if revision surgery was performed.
Open biopsy may be considered with inconclusive preoperative serum and synovial fluid diagnostics for PJI, but sensitivity and specificity were rather low in this special collective. Further studies with bigger collectives should be performed to determine potential markers with a higher sensitivity.