Researchers have developed a new diagnostic test to help detect infections around prosthetic joints such as knee and hip replacements an advance that should improve treatment and patient outcomes.
A small percentage of patients who undergo knee or hip replacement surgery require additional surgery as a result of infection or loosening of the joint. However, many are unaware that they have an infection as they merely feel pain.
The new test, the result of work at Mayo Clinic, samples bacteria adhering to the surface of the hip replacement and enabled researchers to detect 78.5 per cent of infected cases in trials involving 331 patients, compared to the 60.8 per cent detection rate expected with conventional methods.
Team leader Dr Robin Patel, Mayo Clinic professor of medicine, explained: "When people think of infection, they may think of fever or pus coming out of a wound.
"However, this is not the case with prosthetic joint infection. Patients will often experience pain, but not other symptoms usually associated with infection."
Dr Patel revealed that the new test, which is detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, allows experts to determine both the existence of infection and the type of bacteria involved.
"This is important to recognise because it is ideal for the doctors to know what type of infection they are dealing with in order to treat it properly - this determines what type of antibiotic to give and, in some cases, what type of surgery to perform," he explained.
Independent advice on private healthcare