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Artificial Joint Infection

People who have artificial joints are at risk of developing a joint infection. Approximately 0.5 to 1 percent of people with joint replacements will develop such an infection. Infections can occur early within the first two months in the course of recovery from joint replacement surgery or much later.

Artificial joint infections are often times difficult to treat. This is due, at least in part, to the development of a structure called a biofilm within the joint. A biofilm develops when bacteria adheres to the solid surface of the artificial joint. The biofilm can act as a kind of shield to some of the bacteria.

People who develop infections immediately after joint replacement surgery typically have pain, redness, and swelling at the joint or drainage from the wound. Those who develop infections later usually notice a gradual onset of joint pain, often without fever or other obvious signs of joint infection.

Artificial joint infections can be difficult to diagnose and treat because the pain can be similar to that of other complications of joint replacement surgery. Analysis of the joint fluid is necessary to rule out infection.

As stated previously, treatment of artificial joint infections is difficult. Treatment usually includes a long course of intravenous (IV) antibiotics and surgery to remove infected tissue. In some cases, the artificial joint must be temporarily removed.

After a period of antibiotic treatment and the infection is under control, a new prosthesis may be implantanted. In some cases, however, it may be not possible to replace the prosthetic joint and surgery may be recommended to fuse the bones.

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