Periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) is a severe complication after a total knee replacement that is primarily associated with soft tissue defects. Finding an appropriate therapy for PJI is a major challenge because of the lack of guidelines and research comparing treatment options.
In this study, we retrospectively compared 78 patients who had a knee prosthetic infection within a mean follow-up period of 24 months. Group A received a soft tissue coverage in addition to orthopedic surgical therapy with or without a component replacement (CR) of the prosthesis. Group B received the same orthopedic treatment without plastic surgery for soft tissue coverage.
Only 21% of the patients in group A received a CR compared with 70% in group B (P = 0.0001). In group A, 83% did not have a recurrent infection, and in group B, 57% of the patients had no further infection and regained joint function (P = 0.0376). In group A, only 15% of the patients who received a CR had a significant complication within the follow-up period of 2 years, whereas in group B, 75% of patients exhibiting a major complication (P = 0.0048*).
Soft tissue coverage improves the outcome after PJI of the knee with soft tissue defects. Patients who simultaneously needed plastic surgery for defect coverage and orthopedic surgery for CR had the lowest number of complications overall. Based on the results of this study, a therapy algorithm could be identified considering the soft tissue defect grade leading to the lowest major complication rates and maximizing the outcome of knee prosthesis infection therapies.