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Knee Joint Abscess: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What is Knee Joint Abscess?

To better understand a Knee Joint Abscess it is important to understand what exactly is abscess. An abscess is a small tender mass on the surface of the skin which is surrounded by an erythematous area and the mass is filled with pus.1 Abscess may occur in any part of the body but generally they occur in the armpits, in the rectal area, base of the spine, around a tooth and sometimes around the knee joint. This formation of Abscess around the knee joint is termed as Knee Joint Abscess.

Sometimes, inflammation around a hair follicle also causes development of an abscess which is termed as a boil. Since the cause of Knee Joint Abscess is an inflammatory process which is more often than not caused by an infection, antibiotics are the most preferred treatment but in cases of abscesses antibiotics alone may not suffice to permanently treat the knee joint abscess. Additionally, the knee joint abscess needs to be drained and the pus removed for it to be treated definitively.

What is Knee Joint Abscess?

What are the Causes of Knee Joint Abscess?

Knee Joint Abscess is basically caused by obstruction of sweat glands around the knee region, inflammation of hair follicles, or minor traumas or breaks in the skin in the knee area which can occur during playing or when being hit by a sharp object. When this happens, the germs present in the atmosphere get under the skin or into the sweat glands triggering an inflammatory response as the body gets ready to fight and eliminate these germs. Because of this there is development of Knee Joint Abscess. The middle of the abscess gets liquified and contains mostly dead cells, bacteria, and other contaminants. Gradually this area begins to grow and thus creates pressure under the skin resulting in further inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This increased pressure and inflammation then results in severe pain. People who have a compromised immune system tend to get such abscesses more frequently. Sportsmen with a weak immune system are more at risk for developing Knee Joint Abscess. Also people with certain medical conditions like cancer, AIDSdiabetes are also at risk for getting Knee Joint Abscess.

What are the Symptoms of Knee Joint Abscess?

Knee Joint Abscess will be painful, red, and will be tender to touch. As the condition progresses the middle of the abscess may resemble a point and you will be able to see the material inside the center of the abscess. In some cases, these abscesses spontaneously rupture draining pus but if they do not and the Knee Joint Abscess is not treated appropriately then the infection can spread to the surrounding tissues causing severe pain. The patient may also find it difficult to move the knee and walking may be a difficult task to accomplish because of the pain and tenderness due to Knee Joint Abscess. If the infection gets deeper into the tissues then the patient may also develop fever.

How is Knee Joint Abscess Diagnosed?

Before diagnosing Knee Joint Abscess, the treating physician will begin by asking the patient the following questions:

  • What has been the duration of the Knee Joint Abscess
  • Is there a history of an injury or direct trauma to the Knee Joint
  • The medications that are currently being taken
  • History of any allergies
  • Whether the patient has any fever

The next thing a physician will do is examine the surrounding area. For Knee Joint Abscess, the physician will feel for a lymph gland near the groin. The physician may also order blood test to check how far the infection has spread so that it becomes easier for the physician to formulate a treatment plan to definitively treat Knee Joint Abscess.

How is Knee Joint Abscess Treated?

The front line treatment for Knee Joint Abscess is draining of the abscess. This will be done by first numbing the area surrounding the abscess. This will be done with local anesthesia. In case if the Knee Joint Abscess is very large then some sort of sedative might also be given. Then, the area of the abscess will be covered with antiseptic solution. The physician will then cut open the abscess and allow it to drain the pus that has been accumulated in the abscess. Once all the pus has drained, the physician will then pack the cavity left behind by the pus to curtain any bleeding for a couple of days. A bandage will then be placed over the packing. In majority of the cases of Knee Joint Abscess, the relief will be felt immediately. The patient will be able to move his legs more freely and without any pain. Additionally, in case of any pain the physician may prescribe pain medication for control of pain for a few days until the Knee Joint Abscess resolves.

What are some of the Home Treatments for Knee Joint Abscess?

There are also some home treatments for Knee Joint Abscess which are small.

  • You can apply warm compresses to the area of the Knee Joint Abscess for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day.
  • Please do not try and drain the abscess by yourself as this may worsen the condition and the infection may spread deeper into the tissues causing further complications which may need more aggressive treatments
  • Do not poke the center of the Knee Joint Abscess with a needle or anything sharp as this may injure an underlying blood vessel.

Prognosis of Knee Joint Abscess after Drainage of the Abscess

The prognosis for Knee Joint Abscess is very good once the abscess has been drained. In most of the cases, antibiotics are not required once the abscess has been drained. Improvement in pain is felt more after each passing day and the patient is able to move the knee area more freely and in three to four days the patient can go back to normal activities after draining of a Knee Joint Abscess.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 5, 2019

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