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Synovial calprotectin

a potential biomarker to exclude a prosthetic joint infection

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Recently, several synovial biomarkers have been introduced into the algorithm for the diagnosis of a prosthetic joint infection (PJI). Alpha defensin is a promising biomarker, with a high sensitivity and specificity, but it is expensive. Calprotectin is a protein that is present in the cytoplasm of neutrophils, is released upon neutrophil activation and exhibits anti-microbial activity. Our aim, in this study, was to determine the diagnostic potential of synovial calprotectin in the diagnosis of a PJI.

Patients and Methods

In this pilot study, we prospectively collected synovial fluid from the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow of 19 patients with a proven PJI and from a control group of 42 patients who underwent revision surgery without a PJI.

PJI was diagnosed according to the current diagnostic criteria of the Musculoskeletal Infection Society. Synovial fluid was centrifuged and the supernatant was used to measure the level of calprotectin after applying a lateral flow immunoassay.


The median synovial calprotectin level was 991 mg/L (interquartile range (IQR) 154 to 1787) in those with a PJI and 11 mg/L (IQR 3 to 29) in the control group (p < 0.0001). Using a cut-off value of 50 mg/L, this level showed an excellent diagnostic accuracy, with an area under the curve of 0.94. The overall sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) was 89%, 90%, 81% and 95% respectively. The NPV was 97% in the nine patients with a chronic PJI.


Synovial calprotectin may be a valuable biomarker in the diagnosis of a PJI, especially in the exclusion of an infection. With a lateral flow immunoassay, a relatively rapid quantitative diagnosis can be made. The measurement is cheap and is easy to use.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2017;99-B:660–5.

Correspondence should be sent to M. Wouthuyzen-Bakker; email:

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