Utility of Synovial White Blood Cell Count and Differential Before Reimplantation Surgery

Benjamin M. Zmistowski, Corey T. Clyde, Elie S. Ghanem, James R. Gotoff, Carl A. Deirmengian, Javad Parvizi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background Determining optimal timing of reimplantation during 2-stage exchange for periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) remains elusive. Joint aspiration for synovial white blood cell (WBC) count and neutrophil percentage (PMN%) before reimplantation is widely performed; yet, the implications are rarely understood. Therefore, this study investigates (1) the diagnostic yield of synovial WBC count and differential analysis and (2) the calculated thresholds for persistent infection. Methods Institutional PJI databases identified 129 patients undergoing 2-stage exchange arthroplasty who had joint aspiration before reimplantation between February 2005 and May 2014. Persistent infection was defined as a positive aspirate culture, positive intraoperative cultures, or persistent symptoms of PJI—including subsequent PJI-related surgery. Receiver-operating characteristic curve was used to calculate thresholds maximizing sensitivity and specificity. Results Thirty-three cases (33 of 129; 25.6%) were classified with persistent PJI. Compared with infection-free patients, these patients had significantly elevated PMN% (62.2% vs 48.9%; P =.03) and WBC count (1804 vs 954 cells/μL; P =.04). The receiver-operating characteristic curve provided thresholds of 62% and 640 cells/μL for synovial PMN% and WBC count, respectively. These thresholds provided sensitivity of 63% and 54.5% and specificity of 62% and 60.0%, respectively. The risk of persistent PJI for patients with PMN% >90% was 46.7% (7 of 15). Conclusion Synovial fluid analysis before reimplantation has unclear utility. Although statistically significant elevations in synovial WBC count and PMN% are observed for patients with persistent PJI, this did not translate into useful thresholds with clinical importance. However, with little other guidance regarding the timing of reimplantation, severely elevated WBC count and differential analysis may be of use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2820-2824
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Arthroplasty
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • 2-stage exchange
  • PJI
  • periprosthetic joint infection
  • reimplantation
  • white blood cell count


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