A comprehensive microbiological evaluation of fifty-four patients undergoing revision surgery due to prosthetic joint loosening

Geir Bjerkan, Eivind Witsø, Anne Nor, Trond Viset, Kirsti Løseth, Stian Lydersen, Leif Persen, Kåre Bergh
Journal of Medical Microbiology 2012, 61 (Pt 4): 572-81
The diagnosis of a chronic prosthetic joint infection (PJI) is challenging, and no consensus exists regarding how best to define the criteria required for microbiological identification. A general view is that culture of periprosthetic biopsies suffers from inadequate sensitivity. Recently, molecular analyses have been employed in some studies but the specificity of molecular analyses has been questioned, mainly due to contamination issues. In a prospective study of 54 patients undergoing revision surgery due to prosthetic joint loosening, we focused on two aspects of microbiological diagnosis of chronic PJI. First, by collecting diagnostic specimens in a highly standardized manner, we aimed at investigating the adequacy of various specimens by performing quantitative bacteriological culture. Second, we designed and performed real-time 16S rRNA gene PCR analysis with particular emphasis on minimizing the risk of false-positive PCR results. The specimens analysed included synovial fluid, periprosthetic biopsies from the joint capsule and the interface membrane, and specimens from the surface of the explanted prosthesis rendered accessible by scraping and sonication. No antibiotics were given prior to specimen collection. Based on five diagnostic criteria recently suggested, we identified 18 PJIs, all of which fulfilled the criterion of ≥2 positive cultures of periprosthetic specimens. The rate of culture-positive biopsies from the interface membrane was higher compared to specimens from the joint capsule and synovial fluid, and the interface membrane contained a higher bacterial load. Interpretational criteria were applied to differentiate a true-positive PCR from potential bacterial DNA contamination derived from the reagents used for DNA extraction and amplification. The strategy to minimize the risk of false-positive PCR results was successful as only two PCR results were false-positive out of 216 negative periprosthetic specimens. Although the PCR assays themselves were very sensitive, three patients with low bacterial numbers in periprosthetic specimens tested negative by real-time PCR. This overall lowered sensitivity is most likely due to the reduced specimen volume used for PCR analysis compared to culture and may also be due to interference from human DNA present in tissue specimens. According to the protocol in the present study, 16S rRNA gene real-time PCR did not identify more cases of septic prosthetic loosening than did culture of adequate periprosthetic biopsies.

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