Arthroscopic Management of Septic Arthritis of the Native Shoulder: A Systematic Review

Published:October 30, 2017DOI:


      To investigate arthroscopic management of native shoulder joint septic arthritis—specifically, indications, patient outcomes, and complications.


      PubMed, MEDLINE, and Embase were used to search the literature, and data abstraction was performed independently and in duplicate. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) checklist guided reporting and data abstraction. The quality of all included studies was assessed with the Methodological Index for Non-randomized Studies (MINORS) criteria. The results are presented in a narrative summary fashion using descriptive statistics including means, proportions, ranges, κ values, and intraclass correlation coefficient values.


      Overall, 27 studies (19 case reports and 8 case series) were identified, including 115 patients (121 shoulders). The mean follow-up period was 29.1 months (range, 1-199 months). The indications for shoulder arthroscopy owing to infection included pain; limited range of motion; swelling, erythema, and tenderness; fever; elevated leukocyte count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and/or C-reactive protein level; synovial aspirate findings; and/or imaging findings. Overall, 46 patients (40%) achieved infection eradication and functional improvement after a single arthroscopic procedure. However, 43 patients (37%) had ongoing symptoms or complications, including 32 (30%) who required revision arthroscopic procedures, 7 (6%) who underwent open arthrotomy for septic arthritis management, 2 (2%) in whom avascular necrosis of the humeral head developed, 1 (1%) in whom adhesive capsulitis developed, and 1 (1%) in whom an irregular profile of the humeral epiphysis developed on plain radiographs.


      Arthroscopic management of native shoulder septic arthritis can yield alleviation of pain and a return to full range of motion, daily activities, and sports. However, there is a high reoperation rate, which may correlate with poor patient prognostic factors. This systematic review did not show the superiority of either arthroscopic surgery or open arthrotomy for the management of shoulder septic arthritis.

      Level of Evidence

      Level IV, systematic review of Level IV studies.
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