Ann Rheum Dis 67:638-643 doi:10.1136/ard.2007.077131
  • Extended report

Septic arthritis in Iceland 1990–2002: increasing incidence due to iatrogenic infections

Open Access
  1. Á J Geirsson,
  2. S Statkevicius,
  3. A Víkingsson
  1. Department of Medicine, Landspitali University Hospital of Iceland
  1. Á J Geirsson, Department of Medicine, Landspitali Fossvogi, University Hospital of Iceland, 108 Reykjavík, Iceland; arnijon{at}
  • Accepted 17 September 2007
  • Published Online First 27 September 2007


Objectives: To assess the impact of increased number of diagnostic and therapeutic joint procedures on the incidence and type of septic arthritis (SA).

Methods: All cases of SA in Iceland from 1990–2002 were identified by thorough review of the available medical information. The results of synovial fluid cultures from every microbiology department in Iceland were checked and positive culture results reviewed, as well as patient charts with a discharge diagnosis of septic arthritis (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) code M009).

Results: A total of 253 cases of SA (69 children and 184 adults) were diagnosed in Iceland in 1990–2002, giving an average incidence of 7.1 cases/100 000 inhabitants. The incidence of SA increased from 4.2 cases/100 000 in 1990 to 11.0 cases/100 000 in 2002. This rise in SA was primarily observed in adults where the incidence rose by 0.61 cases/100 000 per year (p<0.001). SA was iatrogenic in 41.8% of adults and the number of iatrogenic infections increased from 2.8 cases/year in 1990–1994 to 9.0 cases/year in 1998–2002 (p<0.01). The annual number of arthroscopies increased from 430 in 1990–1994 to 2303 in 1998–2002 (p<0.001) and there was a correlation between the total usage of intra-articular drugs in Iceland and the incidence of SA (p<0.01). The frequency of post-arthroscopy SA was 0.14% and post-arthrocentesis SA 0.037%.

Conclusions: The incidence of SA has increased in recent years due to an increased number of arthroscopies and joint injections. Although the frequency of SA per procedure has not changed, these results emphasise the importance of sterile technique and firm indications for joint procedures.


  • Funding: This study was suppported by a grant from the Wyeth Rheumatology Foundation of Iceland.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethics approval: The study was approved by the Data Protection Authorities in Iceland and the National Bioethics Committee.