Microbial identification in the setting of periprosthetic joint infections (PJI) is crucial to tailor the best combination of surgical and medical treatment. Given the high cost, low sensitivity and slow results associated with traditional cultures, s synovial fluid antibody assay was developed. We asked whether antibody testing may be used as a proxy to traditional culture in the setting of PJI.
A retrospective study of patients who underwent revision total hip (THA) and knee (TKA) arthroplasty between January 2019 and January 2020 was performed. All patients were aspirated prior to revision surgery and antibody testing was performed. All patients had samples harvested for culture as per standard of care. Results of the two tests and their concordance when an organism was identified were compared. A frequency table was used and a McNemar test was used to compare the two methods.
419 patients were included in this study. Antibody testing had a sensitivity and specificity of 21.9% and 92.5%, respectively, compared to traditional cultures. There were 78.1% of false negative and 7.5% of false positives (McNemar test p<0.001). Of the 12 patients who had positive results in both tests, 5 (41.7%) had discordant pathogens identified in each test.
Synovial fluid antibody testing performed poorly when used as a substitute for cultures and may not be a clinically adequate surrogate despite lower cost and faster results. Not only was there a low sensitivity, but also a high rate of discordant organisms between the two tests when both were positive.