What to Do for an Infection from Your Prosthetic Device

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If a prosthetic device is part of your story, you’ve likely endured challenges. Your journey may be born of disease or wearing down of the bones, muscles or joints or some kind of physical trauma. And once your device is implanted, the last thing you want to see is infection. But in a small number of cases, this happens.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of joint replacements are performed in the United States. According to the American Journal of Orthopedics, up to two percent of those develop an infection. If you are part of this small group, you need a trusted expert on your side. Someone like Dr. Serge Lartchenko, founder and director of Texas Infectious Disease Institute in Dallas.

“There is a one to five percent risk of infection for all prosthetic placements. Larger joints, such as the hips and knees, are at particular risk.”
Dr. Serge Lartchenko

What is a Prosthetic Joint Infection?

A prosthetic joint infection (PJI) is a serious complication of joint replacement surgeries. They can involve hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles. Superficial infections that affect the incision or wound usually take place a few days to up to three months following the surgery. This type is usually not serious, but some are linked to infection spreading to or from the prosthetic device.

Infection of the tissue surrounding the device may occur up to two years after surgery and can cause significant pain. Infection can also damage the new joint, requiring a second surgery to remove and replace the device.

You are at greater risk of developing a prosthetic device infection if you have the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Active infection elsewhere in the body when the surgery is performed
  • Repeat joint replacement
  • Malignant or benign tumors
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Weakened immune system

A surgery that lasts several hours or a lengthy rehab in a communal setting can also raise the risk of developing a PJI.

What Causes Prosthetic Infections?

Most PJIs are the result of bacteria—often Staphylococcus aureus—that is present in the body or introduced during the surgery. In many cases, the bacteria are already hiding elsewhere in the body, just waiting for an opportunity, such as a weakened immune system, to attack the vulnerable surgery site or device.

What are the Symptoms of a Prosthetic Joint Infection?

It is important to know the symptoms associated with a prosthetic joint infection because it’s not uncommon for patients to experience some or all of them but just assume they are related to the surgery. Signs and symptoms of an infection related to a prosthetic device include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fevers, chills and night sweats
  • Increased pain or stiffness in a previously healthy joint
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Warmth, redness, and drainage around the wound

How are Prosthetic Joint Infections Treated?

It’s important to seek treatment for a prosthetic joint infection right away. At our Center for Surgical and Orthopedic infectious Disease, we work with you, your surgeon and/or primary care physician to do everything possible to prevent further surgery.

Prosthetic joint infections are unique because of the texture of artificial joints. When artificial joints interact with bacteria, something called a biofilm is often created. Think of this like a wall made out of a group of cells, in this case, bacteria. This film helps to protect bacteria beneath it, making it more difficult for antibiotics to access.

At the Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease, we have deep experience dealing with artificial joint infections. Dr. Lartchenko investigates the type of bacteria causing your infection and creates a unique regimen of antibiotics to fight both the bacteria and the biofilm it creates. Effective treatments of infections with a biofilm require quick and aggressive action. It is always our goal to eradicate the infection and prevent another surgery or amputation.

For Challenging Infections, Trust an Expert

Dr. Lartchenko has more than a decade of experience treating orthopedic and surgery-related infections, including those due to prosthetic devices. Many area doctors call upon him for help with their most challenging cases. As a result, he has been locally and regionally recognized and awarded many times over.

With comprehensive testing and services available in one location, Dr. Lartchenko can diagnose, treat and provide long-term management for your condition. All in a setting that is comfortable, confidential and convenient. Schedule an appointment today.