Understanding Antibiotic Treatment Through a Catheter for Joint Infection

Front view of upper arm showing humerus. A catheter is inserted into the glenohumeral joint.

Infection may occur after a joint replacement. To treat it, antibiotics may be sent directly into the joint through a catheter. The catheter is placed during a surgical procedure. It remains in place for several weeks.

Why antibiotic treatment through a catheter for joint infection is done

Infection after a joint replacement may damage the new joint. This infection often needs several weeks of antibiotic treatment. To help antibiotics work most quickly and effectively, they are sent directly into the joint. This is done through a soft tube called a catheter. The tube is put into the joint and fixed in place. It remains in the joint until it is no longer needed.

How antibiotic treatment through a catheter for joint infection is done

  • The surgeon makes a small cut (incision) over the joint.

  • The surgeon puts the catheter through the incision into the joint. He or she sews it into place.

  • The surgeon sews the skin closed around the catheter.

  • Fluids containing antibiotic medicines are sent through the catheter into the joint.

  • The catheter stays in place until the infection has been treated and the catheter is no longer needed. The surgeon then removes it during a second procedure.

Risks of antibiotic treatment through a catheter for joint infection

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Blood clots

  • Catheter pulls out of the joint and needs to be replaced

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