The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 11, 2757 - 2762

Do Culture Negative Periprosthetic Joint Infections Remain Culture Negative?

Hersh, Beverly L. et al.
Hip Knee


Diagnosis and treatment of culture negative total knee arthroplasty (TKA) periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) is challenging. There is debate over whether culture negative PJI confers increased risk of failure and which organisms are responsible. It is also unclear as to what factors predict conversion from culture negative to culture positivity. To address these issues, we performed an observational study to detect factors associated with transition from culture negative to culture positive TKA PJI in those patients that failed irrigation and debridement (I&D), determine the incidence of this transition, and identify those organisms that were associated with treatment failure.


A multicenter observational cohort study was performed on patients with TKA PJI as defined by Musculoskeletal Infection Society criteria without cultured organisms and treated with I&D. Primary outcome was failure defined as any subsequent surgical procedure. Secondary outcome included cultured organism within 2 years of initial I&D.


Two hundred sixteen TKA I&D procedures were performed for PJI, and 36 met inclusion criteria. The observed treatment failure rate for culture negative PJI treated with I&D was 41.67%. Of those culture negative I&Ds that failed, 53.33% became culture positive after failure. Of those that converted to culture positive, 62.5% were Staphylococcus species. The odds ratio associated with becoming culture positive following culture negative treatment failure in the setting of antibiotic administration prior to the initial I&D procedure was 0.69 (95% confidence interval 0.14-3.47, P = .65).


Many cases of culture negative TKA PJI treated with I&D eventually fail and become culture positive. Staphylococci are common organisms identified after culture negative PJI.

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