Commercially Available Polymerase Chain Reaction Has Minimal Utility in the Diagnosis of Periprosthetic Joint Infection

Beau J. Kildow, Sean P. Ryan, Richard Danilkowicz, Alexander L. Lazarides, Tyler J. Vovos, Michael P. Bolognesi, William A. Jiranek, Thorsten M. Seyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The use of genetic sequencing modalities in the diagnosis of periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) and the identification of organisms has gained popularity recently. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) offers timely results for common organisms. The purpose of this study was to compare the accuracy of broad-range PCR, conventional culture, the Musculoskeletal Infection Society (MSIS) criteria, and the recently proposed criteria by Parvizi et al in the diagnosis of PJI. In this retrospective study, aspirate or tissue samples were collected in 104 revision and 86 primary arthroplasties for routine diagnostic workup for PJI and sent to the laboratory for PCR. Concordance along with statistical differences between diagnostic studies were calculated using chi-square test for categorical data. On comparison with the MSIS criteria, concordance was significantly lower for PCR at 64.7% compared with 86.3% for culture (P<.001). There was no significant difference based on diagnosis of prior infection (P=.706) or sample collection method (tissue swab or synovial fluid) (P=.316). Of the 87 patients who met MSIS criteria, only 20 (23.0%) PCR samples had an organism identified. In this series, PCR had little utility as a stand-alone test for the diagnosis of PJI, with a sensitivity of only 23.0% when using MSIS criteria as the gold standard. Polymerase chain reaction also appears to be significantly less accurate than culture in the diagnosis of PJI. Currently, several laboratory tests used for either criteria for PJI diagnosis should be obtained along with the overall clinical picture to help guide decision-making for PJI treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-338
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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