Our father has an infection in his new hip replacement. He has been put on antibiotics but we are concerned because of all the media hype about taking too many antibiotics. Is this really an appropriate use of these meds?
Joint implant infections can have some very serious complications. The infection can destroy the bone around the implant. The result is a failed implant that must be removed and a revision (second) surgery done. Bacteria in the joint can also enter the blood stream and go to other areas of the body causing additional problems.
Of equal importance is whether the joint fluid was tested before antibiotics were given. It's best to know exactly what pathogen (bacteria) is present before prescribing antibiotics. That way the most effective drug can be matched to the kind of bacteria present in the joint.
Sometimes as soon as there is a suspicion that the patient may have an infection, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is prescribed. Broad-spectrum means it is designed to kill a wide range of different bacteria. The hope is that the type of bacteria present will respond to the drug.
If the symptoms suggestive of infection do not resolve, the patient is taken off all antibiotics for a period of two weeks so that proper testing can be done. This period of time without antibiotics is called washout of antibiotics. Discontinuing the medication is important because taking antibiotics limits the number of bacteria present and prevents accurate testing.
There really are times when the use of antibiotics is appropriate and advised. Joint replacement implant infection is one of those times!
Craig Della Valle, MD, et al. Diagnosis of Periprosthetic Joint Infections of the Hip and Knee. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. December 2010. Vol. 18. No. 12. Pp. 760-770.
*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.