In orthopedic implant surgery, infection is rare, but difficult to eradicate. Neither diagnosis nor treatment of such infections is standardized. A MEDLINE search with the keywords “orthopedic implant-related infection” and “joint replacement and infection” identified studies published from 1982–2002. One single randomized controlled trial could be found. In addition, larger retrospective case series and observational studies with clear definition of the observed intervention were also selected for inclusion. A rational algorithm based on clinical experience in orthopedic implant-related infections, observational studies and the controlled trial is presented. The conditions for the different therapeutic options (debridement with retention, one-stage exchange, two-stage exchange, removal without reimplantation or suppressive antibiotic treatment) are presented. The proposed algorithm is based on the interval after implantation (early, delayed, late), the type of infection (exogenous vs hematogenous), the condition of the implant and the soft tissue, as well as comorbidity of the patient. Considering both surgical and antimicrobial therapy, our algorithm facilitates either retrospective evaluation of case series or the planning of well-defined prospective studies.
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