Septic arthritis among users of injection drugs: Clinical course and microbial characteristics

J. Gregory Mawn, Sandesh S. Rao, Yash P. Chaudhry, Caleb Gottlich, Gilberto O. Lobaton, Samir Sabharwal, Robert S. Sterling, Casey J. Humbyrd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Injection drug use (IDU) is a risk factor for septic arthritis (SA) of native joints. Amid the opioid crisis, IDU rates have increased. This study assessed differences in preoperative characteristics, microbial characteristics, and postoperative outcomes of 177 cases of SA treated operatively from 2015 to 2019 at 3 US hospitals, by self-reported IDU status. Forty cases (23%) involved patients who reported IDU. Patient characteristics, comorbidities, microbial characteristics, duration of hospital stay, discharge destination, follow-up rates, and rates of persistent/secondary infection were compared by self-reported IDU status. Compared with non-IDUassociated SA (non-IDU-SA), IDU-associated SA (IDU-SA) was associated with female sex (P=.001), younger age (P<.001), lower body mass index (P<.001), tobacco use (P<.001), and psychiatric diagnosis (P=.04) and was more likely to involve methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (P<.001). The IDU-SA was associated with discharge to a skilled nursing facility or against medical advice (P<.001) and with loss to follow-up (P=.01). The 2 groups did not differ in terms of American Society of Anesthesiologists classification, joint involved, Gram stain positivity, presence of bacteremia, peripherally inserted central catheter placement, return to hospital within 3 months, or persistent/secondary positive results on culture within 3 months. Patients with IDU-SA were younger, were more likely to be female, had lower body mass index, and had fewer medical comorbidities but were more likely to use tobacco and to have a psychiatric diagnosis compared with patients with non-IDU-SA. Methicillin-resistant S aureus was more common in the IDU-SA group, as was discharge to a skilled nursing facility or against medical advice. Patients with IDU-SA were less likely to return for followup than patients with non-IDU-SA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E747-E752
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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