clinical features

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In a child, septic arthritis usually affects the hip. In adults the knee is most often affected.

Local features include:

  • overlying skin is red and warm
  • swollen, painful joint
  • pain on movement - movements are always diminished and often absent if the joint is rigid due to pain and spasm

General features include tachycardia and swinging pyrexia.


  • may present as irritability in children
  • more than one joint may be involved

Widespread septic arthritis in a newborn, caused by septicaemia, is called Tom Smith's arthritis.

Last reviewed 06/2021