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Febrile Response After Knee and Hip Arthroplasty

Shaw, James, A.; Chung, Raymond

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: October 1999 - Volume 367 - Issue - p 181–189
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Documentation of the normal fever response after total knee and hip replacement is important to avoid an unnecessary workup for sepsis, and to provide justification for early discharge (dictated by the current medical reimbursement climate) despite persistent postoperative fever. One hundred patients who underwent total knee arthroplasty and 100 patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty were reviewed, several of whom had extensive sepsis workups for evaluation of postoperative fever. No patient in this series had a documented joint infection. All patients were treated with warfarin for deep vein thombrosis prophylaxis. All patients used incentive spirometry and were started on am-bulation training on postoperative Day 1. AH were given antibiotic prophylaxis for 48 hours. The maximum daily postoperative temperature occurred in most patients on postoperative Day 1 and gradually leveled off toward normal by postoperative Day 5. Only one patient had a maximum temperature on postoperative Day 4 that was greater than that on postoperative Day 3. Patients undergoing revision procedures tended to have a more pronounced febrile response, but the differences were not statistically significant. No significant differences were seen between patients who had epidural anesthesia and patients who had general anesthesia. Seventeen patients had postoperative chest radiographs for evaluation of fever. None had significant atelectasis. The presence of a positive urine culture had no effect on the fever response, with most positive results being identified after the fever had returned toward normal. Postoperative fever after total joint arthroplasty is a normal inflammatory response. A workup for sepsis is not indicated in the perioperative period unless corroborating signs or symptoms are present. Early discharge is appropriate if the febrile response is decreasing progressively.

From George Washington University Hospital, Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington, DC.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.