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The Value of Intraoperative Histology in Predicting Infection in Patients Undergoing Revision Elbow Arthroplasty
Shahryar Ahmadi, MD1; Thomas M. Lawrence, MBChB1; Bernard F. Morrey, MD1; Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo, MD1
1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, MN 55905. E-mail address for J. Sanchez-Sotelo: sanchezsotelo.joaquin@mayo.edu
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2013 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2013 Nov 06;95(21):1976-1979. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00409
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The perioperative diagnosis of infection in the setting of revision elbow arthroplasty may be difficult to establish. Intraoperative pathology with histology for identification of acute inflammatory changes has been reported to be of value in revision surgery after failed hip or knee arthroplasty. The purpose of this study was to study the role of intraoperative histology in the diagnosis of infection in patients undergoing revision elbow arthroplasty.


From 2000 to 2007, 296 consecutive revision elbow procedures were performed at our institution. Both intraoperative histology and operative samples for culture were obtained at the time of 227 of these procedures, which form the basis of this study.


Histology was read as consistent with acute inflammation in patients undergoing thirty-three procedures (14.5%). Intraoperative cultures were positive in thirty-nine procedures (17.2%). Intraoperative histology was considered true positive (both histology and cultures positive) in twenty arthroplasties (8.8%), true negative (both histology and cultures were negative) in 175 arthroplasties (77.1%), false positive (the histology was positive but the culture was negative) in thirteen arthroplasties (5.7%), and false negative (the histology was negative but the culture was positive) in nineteen arthroplasties (8.4%). With regard to intraoperative histology, the sensitivity was 51.3%, the specificity was 93.1%, and the accuracy was 85.9%. The positive predictive value was 60.6% and the negative predictive value was 90.2%.


In our study, intraoperative histology had a high specificity and negative predictive value, but a low sensitivity and positive predictive value for predicting infection in the setting of revision elbow arthroplasty. Intraoperative histology should be used in conjunction with other studies to definitively establish the diagnosis of infection in the setting of revision elbow arthroplasty.

Level of Evidence: 

Diagnostic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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