Joint aspiration and serum markers - do they matter in the diagnosis of native shoulder sepsis? A systematic review

Luis M. Salazar, Jose M. Gutierrez-Naranjo, Clarissa Meza, Andrew Gabig, Aaron J. Bois, Christina I. Brady, Anil K. Dutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Septic arthritis of the native shoulder is traditionally diagnosed with the same strategies as knee or hip septic arthritis. However, septic arthritis of the shoulder is frequently a missed or delayed diagnosis. Reliance on aspiration and serum markers has been called into question recently. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review investigating the value of joint aspiration and serum markers in the diagnosis of native shoulder joint sepsis. Methods: PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library were used in the systematic literature search from January 1, 1960, through January 23, 2021. The primary outcome was to report on the synovial white cell count of patients with native shoulder sepsis. Descriptive statistics using percentages, means, and intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) values were used to summarize the results. Results: Thirty-one studies, including 25 case series, one case-control, and five cohort studies with a total of 7434 native shoulder joints, were included. There was no standardized approach to diagnosing septic arthritis of the shoulder. Only 10 studies (32%) reported on synovial white cell count with the majority yielding aspiration counts greater than 50,000 cells/mm3, although one study was as low as 30,000 cells/mm3. Conclusions: The diagnosis of native shoulder joint sepsis lacks uniformity. Methods used to evaluate shoulder sepsis are heterogeneous and may lead to delays or misdiagnosis with devastating sequelae. Synovial white cell count is underutilized and may also present with a lower value than expected, which is likely related to the time interval between symptom onset and diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number470
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Diagnosis
  • Glenohumeral joint sepsis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Shoulder
  • Shoulder sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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