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Septic and Nonseptic Olecranon Bursitis:  Utility of the Surface Temperature Probe in the Early Differentiation of Septic and Nonseptic Cases

David L. Smith, MD; John H. McAfee, MD; Linda M. Lucas, MD; Kusum L. Kumar, MD; Doug M. Romney
Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(7):1581-1585. doi:10.1001/archinte.1989.00390070101015.
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• Forty-six consecutive cases of olecranon bursitis were prospectively analyzed during a 1-year period. Eleven cases were septic; 35 cases were nonseptic. In addition to bursal fluid analysis, the surface temperature over the involved olecranon bursa and the contralateral (control) olecranon process was obtained by using a surface temperature probe. We compared the temperature difference between the involved and control sides in all septic and nonseptic cases. In nonseptic cases, the mean surface temperature difference was 0.7°C vs 3.7°C in septic cases. In all septic cases, the temperature difference was 2.2°C or greater (range, 2.2°C to 5.1°C; SD, 1.1). Use of the surface probe temperature difference proved 100% sensitive and 94% specific in discriminating septic from nonseptic cases. It seems to be more helpful than the bursal fluid leukocyte count, the predominant cell type, or Gram's stain in the early differentiation of septic and nonseptic olecranon bursitis.

(Arch Intern Med. 1989;149:1581-1585)

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