For decision-making (aseptic vs. septic), surgeons rely on intraoperatively available tests when a periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) cannot be confirmed or excluded preoperatively. We compared and evaluated the intraoperative performances of the frozen section and the alpha defensin lateral flow test in the diagnosis of PJI.
In this prospective study, consecutive patients with indicated revision surgery after arthroplasty were included. Patients were classified as having PJI using the MusculoSkeletal Infection criteria. The presence of alpha defensin was determined using the lateral flow test intraoperatively. During revision surgery, tissue samples were harvested for frozen and permanent section. Analysis of diagnostic accuracy was based on receiver-operating characteristics.
101 patients (53 hips, 48 knees) were eligible for inclusion. Postoperatively, 29/101 patients were diagnosed with PJI, of which 8/29 cases were definitely classified as septic preoperatively. Of the remainder 21 septic cases, the intraoperative alpha defensin test and frozen section were positive in 13 and 17 patients, respectively. Sensitivities of the alpha defensin test and frozen section were 69% and 86%, respectively. The area under the curves of both tests showed a statistically significant difference (p = 0.006).
The frozen section showed a significantly higher performance compared with the alpha defensin test and a near perfect concordance with the definitive histology, and therefore remains an appropriate intraoperative screening test in diagnosing PJI. Although the sensitivity of the alpha defensin test was lower compared with that of frozen section, this test is highly specific for confirming the diagnosis of PJI.