Septic Arthritis Medication

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

The empirical choice of antibiotic therapy is based on results of the Gram stain and the clinical picture and background of the patient. When the Gram stain fails to reveal any microorganisms (40-50% of cases), the individual's age and sexual activity become the major determinants to differentiate gonococcal from nongonococcal arthritis. When no evidence suggests infection elsewhere, antibiotics must cover S aureus, streptococcal species, and gonococci (in patients who are sexually active).

Evidence shows that earlier initiation of an appropriate antibiotic regimen produces better functional results. Generally, treatment is administered intravenously for 3-4 weeks. The major exception to this is in the case of joints with gonococcal infection, for which total therapy is approximately 2 weeks, with switch to oral therapy. No indication exists for direct installation of antibiotics into the joint cavity. Such practice may increase the degree of inflammation.



Class Summary

Antibiotic therapy must be comprehensive and cover all likely pathogens in the context of this clinical setting. The use of linezolid with or without rifampin should be considered for staphylococcal prosthetic joint infection (PJI).


Ceftriaxone is the drug of choice (DOC) against N gonorrhea. This agent is effective against gram-negative enteric rods. Monitor sensitivity data.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

Ciprofloxacin is an alternative antibiotic to ceftriaxone to treat N gonorrhoeae and gram-negative enteric rods.

Cefixime (Suprax)

Cefixime is a third-generation oral cephalosporin with broad activity against gram-negative bacteria. By binding to one or more of the penicillin-binding proteins, this agent arrests bacterial cell wall synthesis and inhibits bacterial growth.

Oral cefixime is used as a follow-up to intravenous (IV) ceftriaxone to treat N gonorrhoeae.


Oxacillin is a bactericidal semisynthetic penicillin that inhibits cell wall synthesis. Useful against methicillin-sensitive S aureus (MSSA).


Vancomycin is an anti-infective agent used against methicillin-sensitive S aureus (MSSA), methicillin-resistant coagulase-negative S aureus (CoNS), and ampicillin-resistant enterococci in patients allergic to penicillin.

Linezolid (Zyvox)

Linezolid is an alternative antibiotic that is used in patients allergic to vancomycin and for the treatment of vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

Dalbavancin (Dalvance)

The prolonged half-life (360 hours) allows weekly dosing of dalbavancin. In addition, its effectiveness against gram-positive cocci, including biofilm producers, makes it a very desirable agent for the outpatient treatment of native and prosthetic joint infections.


Rifampin is used in combination with other drugs. It inhibits RNA synthesis in bacteria by binding to the beta subunit of DNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which, in turn, blocks RNA transcription.