BACKGROUND: The most common complications of prosthetic hip joints are aseptic mechanical failure and infection. Delayed low-grade infections are seen most often, and they are also most difficult to distinguish from aseptic mechanical failures.
METHODS: We conducted a prospective study to compare inflammatory markers in patients diagnosed with aseptic or septic prosthetic loosening. The diagnostic criteria were based on the decisions of experienced orthopedic surgeons and microbiological analysis of periprosthetic tissue samples taken perioperatively.
RESULTS: Coagulase-negative staphylococci were the commonest pathogens in the infected patients. Pre- or perioperative elevation of C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate were significantly greater in the infection group, as were white blood cell count and levels of cytokines in synovial fluid. The patterns of infiltration of inflammatory cells in periprosthetic tissue were also significantly different between the groups.
INTERPRETATION: A combination of clinical judgment and multiple tissue samples constitutes a good platform for distinguishing between septic and aseptic loosening of prostheses. Moreover, the combined use of several laboratory and histopathological markers of inflammation, especially infiltration of polymorphonuclear cells, further helps the diagnosis.
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