Septic arthritis in children


Treating and providing aftercare for septic arthritis in children

Enquiries & Appointments

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What is septic arthritis?

Septic arthritis is a medical emergency and you should take your child to an emergency department should septic arthritis be suspected. It's caused by a bacterial infection in the joint space and may cause permanent damage if not treated immediately. It's most common in the hip and knees.

It's caused by bacteria which can enter the bloodstream through a cut on the skin and travels to the joints.

Need to know

Parents should watch for the following symptoms in their child:

  • Acute pain, redness and heat in a large joint such as the hip
  • Pain and spasm when child tries to move the joint
  • High fever and rapid pulse
  • Tremors, dilated pupils and disrupted speech

Babies may be irritable and refuse to feed. They may have redness in the joints, a racing pulse and obvious infection around the umbilical cord (where the bacteria may have entered).

If you think your child has septic arthritis, go straight to hospital. They'll be given a blood test and fluid will be drawn from the joints for testing. A consultant will look for signs of infection (increased levels of white blood cells) and staphylococcal and streptococcal bacteria, which cause septic arthritis. They will also examine your child's joints and look for symptoms of septic arthritis.
Your child will be treated with antibiotics, given through a drip. They'll be kept in hospital for around two weeks. This is to monitor the condition and to make sure pressure is taken off the joints.

They'll be seen by an orthopaedic consultant, who may suggest your child needs fluid drained from the joint. This is done through an arthroscopy. After your child returns home, they'll be given a further course of antibiotic tablets. Your consultant will check your child's progress.

Our locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.