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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2015

A systematic review and meta-analysis regarding the use of corticosteroids in septic arthritis

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2015
Luke Farrow
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The author declares that he has no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

L. Farrow is the sole author of this paper and is therefore responsible for the entirety of the collected work.



Chondral damage is one of the major sequelae of septic arthritis; occurring even after prompt treatment of a septic joint. Subsequent loss of joint function can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life. Corticosteroids are known to have beneficial effects on the rate and extent cartilage destruction in arthritis through a variety of mediators such as synovial RANKL expression, mast cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Investigation into sepsis at other sites has suggested improved outcomes with corticosteroid use despite the theoretical risks. This study therefore set out to review current literature with regards to a possible beneficial effect for corticosteroids in Septic Arthritis.


A computerised search of the databases MEDLINE and CINAHL was conducted during November 2014 using the EBSCOhost web search engine in order to identify research articles relating to the use of corticosteroids in the treatment of septic arthritis. The search strategy revealed 223 unique articles which were subjected to inclusion/exclusion criteria assessment. 6 articles were selected for study inclusion. These consisted of 3 human studies (2 double-blind randomised controlled trials & 1 double-blind non-randomised controlled trial), and 3 animal studies (3 non-blinded non-randomised controlled trials). Quantitative synthesis (meta-analysis) was only possible regarding two primary outcomes for two of the included studies – time to normalisation of CRP and duration of IV antibiotic therapy.


All current published evidence in humans is focused upon children. Overall results did however reveal a consensus between these studies for a reduced duration of symptoms and a reduction in inflammatory markers. Animal data suggested a protective effect on the articular cartilage with the addition of corticosteroids to antibiotic therapy. No article noted an adverse effect associated with steroid use. Findings were consistent with systematic reviews of corticosteroid use in other bacterial infections.


Despite the promising outlook, issues’ regarding generalisability of results and a lack of large randomised controlled trial data necessitates further assessment of the safety and efficacy of steroid use in adults before treatment recommendations can be made. Long term safety data and the determinations of the optimum route, dose and timing of corticosteroids are also required.
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