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Postoperative Septic Arthritis After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: Does It Affect the Outcome? A Retrospective Controlled Study

      Purpose

      To determine whether the outcome after septic arthritis after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) is inferior compared with uncomplicated ACLR when treated promptly by use of a standard protocol.

      Methods

      At Capio Artro Clinic, 4,384 primary ACLRs were performed during 2001-2009. All patients with postoperative septic arthritis were retrospectively reviewed, and 43 met the inclusion criteria. Twenty-seven patients agreed to re-examination (infection group) and were compared with 27 matched patients with uncomplicated ACLR (control group). The mean follow-up period was 60 months and 66 months in the infection group and control group, respectively. Re-examination included objective (radiographs, physical examination, functional testing, range of motion, strength, stability, International Knee Documentation Committee questionnaire) and subjective (Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, Tegner score, Lysholm score, European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions, subjective satisfaction questions, Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation of knee function, visual analog scale pain rating) evaluation.

      Results

      There were no significant differences in objective knee function between the groups at follow-up. For subjective knee function, no significant differences between the groups were detected with the Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation score, pain during activity, or Lysholm score. The infection group scored lower on 4 of 5 Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score subscales: pain (P = .014), function in daily living (P = .008), sports/recreation (P = .015), and quality of life (P = .007). The infection group scored lower versus control patients on the Tegner score (P = .001) and European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions scores (P = .004). Both groups improved over time, but the control group scored better only on the Tegner score (P = .004).

      Conclusions

      Septic arthritis after ACLR did not result in inferior objective knee function compared with uncomplicated ACLR. Subjectively, infection patients were as satisfied as non-infection patients, but rehabilitation took longer and fewer patients returned to sports. The findings of this study suggest that anterior cruciate ligament grafts may be retained with prompt, thorough arthroscopic lavage and debridement; correct antibiotics according to cultures; and repeated arthroscopy if necessary.

      Level of Evidence

      Level III, retrospective case-control therapeutic study.
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