The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 32, Issue 12, 3718 - 3723

Methylene Blue–Guided Debridement as an Intraoperative Adjunct for the Surgical Treatment of Periprosthetic Joint Infection

Shaw, Jeremy D. et al.
Hip Knee


Current methods to identify infected tissue in periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) are inadequate. The purpose of this study was (1) to assess methylene blue–guided surgical debridement as a novel technique in PJI using quantitative microbiology and (2) to evaluate clinical success based on eradication of infection and infection-free survival.


Sixteen total knee arthroplasty patients meeting Musculoskeletal Infection Society criteria for PJI undergoing the first stage of 2-stage exchange arthroplasty were included in this prospective study. Dilute methylene blue (0.1%) was instilled in the knee before debridement, residual dye was removed, and stained tissue was debrided. Paired tissue samples, stained and unstained, were collected from the femur, tibia, and capsule during debridement. Samples were analyzed by neutrophil count, semiquantitative culture, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Clinical success was a secondary outcome.


The mean age was 64.0 ± 6.0 years, and follow-up was 24.4 ± 3.5 months. More bacteria were found in methylene blue–stained vs unstained tissue-based on semiquantitative culture (P = .001). PCR for staphylococcal species showed 9-fold greater bioburden in methylene blue–stained vs unstained tissue (P = .02). Tissue pathology found 53 ± 46 polymorphonuclear leukocytes per high-power field in methylene blue–stained vs 4 ± 13 in unstained tissue (P = .0001). All subjects cleared their primary infection and underwent reimplantation. At mean 2-year follow-up, 25% of patients failed secondary to new infection with a different organism.


These results suggest a role for methylene blue in providing a visual index of surgical debridement in the treatment of PJI.

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