Twenty-eight patients (two of them children) with septic arthritis of
twenty-nine wrists were treated with early surgical drainage, parenteral
antibiotics, and early motion after surgical decompression. The etiology
was trauma in seventeen patients, and Staphylococcus aureus was the
organism that was most commonly recovered on culture. In twenty-two
patients (twenty-three wrists) who were followed for six months to nine
years there were no recurrences. The results were evaluated in terms of
range of motion, grip strength, and subjective complaints of discomfort and
disability. Of the ten wrists with a good or excellent result, all had had
the arthrotomy within ten hours after diagnosis, and of the thirteen with a
fair or poor result, surgery had been delayed for sixteen hours or longer.
The long-term results deteriorated in direct proportion to increasing time
until treatment and the number of procedures performed.