Comparison of Arthroscopy versus Open Arthrotomy for Treatment of Septic Arthritis of the Native Knee: Analysis of 90-Day Postoperative Complications

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The journal of knee surgery




Septic arthritis is an orthopaedic emergency, often necessitating surgical debridement, and the knee joint is most frequently affected. Arthroscopic and open irrigation and debridement (I&D) are the two commonest surgical treatments for septic arthritis of the native knee. Several studies have compared outcomes of open and arthroscopic management without coming to a clear conclusion which yields superior outcomes. The purpose of this study was to compare the results of these two surgical techniques to treat septic arthritis of the native knee using a large nationwide database. Patients who underwent arthroscopic or open I&D as treatment for knee septic arthritis from 2010 to 2019 were identified using a national insurance database. The primary outcome was the 90-day reoperation rate. Secondary outcomes included surgical site infection, readmission, and other postoperative complications. A total of 1,139 patients were identified, 618 of whom (54%) underwent open treatment and 521 (46%) underwent arthroscopic treatment. The two groups did not differ significantly by age, gender, or most comorbidities. There was no significant difference in 90-day reoperation rate between the groups (15.0.% open and 18.0% arthroscopic,  = 0.174). Patients who underwent open treatment had increased odds of readmission to the hospital (odds ratio [OR] = 1.46 [1.14-1.86];  = 0.003), postoperative anemia (OR = 1.71 [1.08-2.75];  = 0.025), and blood transfusion (OR = 1.76 [1.04-3.06];  = 0.040) compared with those who underwent arthroscopic surgery. Using administrative claims data, we found that arthroscopic and open I&D have similar rates of reoperation and most 90-day postoperative outcomes. Lower rates of readmission, postoperative anemia, and blood transfusion were found with arthroscopic I&D, suggesting that arthroscopy may be preferable to open treatment in the management of septic arthritis of the native knee in cases in which other case- and surgeon-specific factors do not otherwise dictate the best treatment modality.


Orthopaedic Surgery