Destructive septic arthritis of shoulder in adults

R. Garofalo, B. Flanagin, E. Cesari, E. Vinci, M. Conti, A. Castagna

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Background: Late sequelae of septic arthritis of the glenohumeral joint are very rare and represent a potentially devastating condition that can result in irreversible changes at the level of joint and surrounding soft tissues. Materials and methods: Between January 2001 and December 2010, ten patients were treated at our institution for late sequelae of septic arthritis of the shoulder. There were eight men and two women with a mean age of 67.9 years (range 62-74 years). Eight of ten patients had previously received three or more intra-articular or subacromial injections. Surgical treatment consisted of open joint debridement, humeral head resection and implantation of an antibiotic spacer followed by a 6-8-week course of intravenous antibiotics. Results: White blood cell count, C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate normalized between 6 and 8 weeks postoperatively in all patients. No recurrent infection was observed in any patient. Postoperatively, the mean Constant score was 37 (range 28-46) and mean DASH score was 54 (range 40-69), demonstrating a very limited function in these patients. There was a trend toward improved outcome scores in patients who underwent early surgical debridement. Five patients underwent delayed reconstruction with a reverse shoulder prosthesis, and at minimum 1-year follow-up, the mean Constant score was 56 (range 47-69) and mean DASH score was 33 (31-38). Conclusions: Antibiotic spacers are able to deliver antibiotics locally to the infected tissue while reducing the dead space and stabilizing the glenohumeral joint. An early, aggressive management of the infection is essential to maximize clinical outcomes and avoid either significant destruction or ankylosis of the shoulder joint.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusculoskeletal Surgery
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Antibiotic spacer
  • Glenohumeral joint
  • Infection
  • Septic arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Surgery


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