What is the role of serological testing between stages of two-stage reconstruction of the infected prosthetic knee?

Sharat K Kusuma, Joseph Ward, Marc Jacofsky, Scott M Sporer, Craig J Della Valle
Clinical Orthopaedics and related Research 2011, 469 (4): 1002-8

BACKGROUND: Two-stage exchange arthroplasty is the gold standard for treatment of infected TKA. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and synovial fluid white blood cell (WBC) count with differential are often used to determine treatment response; however, it is unclear whether these tests can answer the critical question of whether joint sepsis has been controlled between stages and if reimplantation is indicated.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: We therefore asked if (1) these serologies respond between stage one explantation and stage two reimplantation during two-stage knee reconstruction for infection; and (2) changes in the values of these serologies are predictive of resolution of joint infection.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the serologies of 76 infected patients treated with a two-stage exchange protocol. The ESR, CRP, and aspiration were repeated a minimum of 2 weeks following antibiotic cessation and prior to second stage reoperation. Comparisons were made to identify trends in these serologies between the first and second stage procedures.

RESULTS: Eight knees (12%) were persistently infected at the time of second stage reoperation. The ESR remained persistently elevated in 37 knees (54%), and the CRP remained elevated in 14 knees (21%) where infection had been controlled. We were unable to identify an optimum cutoff value for the ESR, CRP, or the two combined. The best test for confirmation of infection control was the synovial fluid WBC count.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the ESR, CRP, and synovial fluid WBC counts decreased in cases of infection control, these values frequently remained elevated. We were unable to identify any patterns in these tests indicative of persistent infection.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level II, diagnostic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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