To analyse the prevalence of culture negative periprosthetic joint infections (PJI) when adequate culture techniques are applied, and to evaluate the outcome of patients who were treated with antibiotics for a culture negative PJI versus those in whom treatment was withheld.
A multicenter observational study in which acute and chronic PJIs diagnosed between 2013 and 2018 were analyzed. Culture negative PJIs were diagnosed according to the MSIS, ICM and EBJIS definitions.
Out of the 1553 acute PJIs, none were culture negative. Out of the 1556 chronic PJIs, 70 were culture negative (4.7%) and included for further analysis. A total of 36 were treated with antibiotics (51%). After two years of follow-up, no infections occurred in patients in whom antibiotic treatment was withheld, but prosthesis extraction by any cause was observed more often in the no antibiotic group compared to the antibiotic group (32.4% versus 8.3%, P 0.012), especially in the absence of metallosis. Antibiotic treatment was the only independent predictor of prosthesis retention in the multivariate analysis (95% CI 0.15, 0.03 – 0.70).
When adequate culture techniques are applied, the incidence of culture negative PJIs is low. If diagnosed, antibiotic treatment should be administered.