One of 4 antibiotics with antistaphylococcal activity was given in a conventional oral dose for one day to each of 20 hospitalised patients with synovial effusion of a knee joint requiring aspiration. Serial synchronous samples of serum and synovial fluid (SF) were taken over 36 hours through indwelling cannulae. No morbidity was experienced either during or after this procedure. Satisfactory antistaphylococcal concentrations in SF were achieved with sodium fusidate (500 mg 8 hourly) and amoxycillin (250 mg 8 hourly). Cephradine (500 mg 6 hourly) frequently failed to reach the minimum inhibitory concentration for Staphylococcus aureus in the SF, and flucloxacillin (250 mg 6 hourly) was unpredictable in its penetration of the synovial space. Wide interpatient variation of both serum and SF concentrations was found. Our results indicate that sodium fusidate is an appropriate early treatment for a nonresistant staphylococcal joint infection. Amoxycillin is a suitable alternative or second antistaphylococcal drug and would also be appropriate initial therapy when the infecting organism is unknown. We strongly recommend that SF antibiotic concentrations be measured, to ensure adequate penetration of the synovial cavity, in the treatment of septic arthritis.
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