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01.11.2010 | Case Report | Ausgabe 11/2010

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® 11/2010

Case Report: Neuropathic Arthropathy of the Hip as a Sequela of Undiagnosed Tertiary Syphilis

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® > Ausgabe 11/2010
MD Nicholas A. Viens, BA Tyler Steven Watters, MD Emily N. Vinson, MD, PhD Brian E. Brigman
Wichtige Hinweise
Each author certifies that he or she has no commercial associations (eg, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.
Each author certifies that his or her institution either has waived or does not require approval for the reporting of this case, that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research, and informed consent was obtained for participation.



Neuropathic arthropathy is characterized by rapidly progressive bone destruction in the setting of impaired nociceptive and proprioceptive innervation to the involved joint. It is seen most commonly in the foot and ankle, secondary to peripheral neuropathy in patients with diabetes mellitus. Other less common sites of involvement may include the knee, hip, shoulder, and spine, depending on the underlying etiology. Neuropathic arthropathy can be associated with tabes dorsalis, a unique manifestation of late, tertiary neurosyphilis that may arise in individuals with untreated syphilis many years after initial infection, and usually involves the knee, or less commonly, the hip.

Case Report

We report the case of a 73-year-old man with neuropathic arthropathy of the hip and tabes dorsalis attributable to previously undiagnosed tertiary syphilis. There was considerable delay in the diagnosis and unnecessary diagnostic testing owing to failure to consider syphilis as the cause.

Literature Review

With the advent of effective antimicrobial therapy and public health campaigns, the relationship between untreated syphilis and neuropathic arthropathy has been primarily a historic point of interest. However, current epidemiologic research suggests a resurgence of syphilis in the United States, with an increased incidence of patients presenting with manifestations of tertiary syphilis from unidentified and untreated primary infections. Treatment options for neuropathic arthropathy of the hip are limited. Arthrodesis has had poor success and treatment with THA has had high complication rates.


Syphilis is not merely a historic cause of neuropathic arthropathy. Neurosyphilis and tabes dorsalis should be considered in the differential diagnosis for patients presenting with rapid joint destruction consistent with Charcot arthropathy and no other apparent cause.

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