Septic Arthritis: A Need to Strengthen the Referral Chain in a Developing Economy


Aim: This retrospective analysis documents the features and factors that potentially affect outcomes in septic arthritis in the Cross River Basin area of south-south Nigeria. Patients and Methods: A retrospective analysis of 43 patients who presented with septic arthritis in 45 joints between September 2007 and August 2010. All patients with pain, fever, joint swelling and non-weight bearing/refusal to move the limb and had a joint aspiration productive of a turbid and/or purulent aspirate were included in the analysis. Patients whose joint aspiration produced frank blood or a clear exudate were excluded. Results: There were 24 males and 19 females (M:F = 1.3:1). Forty patients were children while three were adults. Thirty-three patients were urban dwellers, 8 were semi-urban dwellers and 2 were rural dwellers. Twenty-five children were first seen by a Paediatrician. Only 5 patients were first seen by an Orthopaedic surgeon. Definitive treatment was conservative in 28 children and arthrotomy/washout in 12 children and 3 adults. Staphylococcus aureus was the commonest isolated pathogen in both age groups. Conclusion: Injudicious interventions in musculoskeletal conditions consist not only of traditional bone setting and other unorthodox practices, but also sub-optimal orthodox medical practices. Healthcare outcomes in Africa are a function of the skewed distribution of the healthcare workforce and a weak referral chain. The near absence of follow-up culture underscores the need for education on injudicious antibiotic therapy to be directed at patients and physicians. Judicious interventions in musculoskeletal sepsis at first contact and a strengthening of the referral chain are important.

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I. Ikpeme, N. Ngim, A. Ikpeme and A. Oku, "Septic Arthritis: A Need to Strengthen the Referral Chain in a Developing Economy," Open Journal of Orthopedics, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 110-118. doi: 10.4236/ojo.2013.32022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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