Septic arthritis of the temporomandibular joint: Review of the literature and report of two cases in children

Steve M. Leighty, David H. Spach, Robert W.T. Myall, Jane L. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Septic arthritis of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) has a high morbidity, is infrequently reported, and has been described almost exclusively in adults. We present two cases of septic arthritis of the TMJ that occurred in children after minor blunt trauma. Literature related to septic arthritis of the TMJ was reviewed, and a composite list of cases was constructed. The most common causes were various infections of the head and neck, rheumatic joint disease, and iatrogenesis. Pathogens may gain access to the TMJ by several routes. Patients typically present with an acute, tender, monarticular arthritis with associated swelling and erythema. Malaise, nausea, and vomiting may also be present. Traumatic effusions, fractures, and neoplasms may present in a similar fashion, and mimic TMJ septic arthritis. Staphylococcus aureus is the most commonly reported pathogen and often causes permanent joint damage. Aspiration and analysis of joint fluid, as well as blood chemistry, imaging studies, and clinical impression, may assist in the diagnosis. Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome; therapy should include antimicrobial agents, adequate drainage, and resting of the joint. Complications include spread of infection, postinfectious bony changes, and fibrous (or bony) ankylosis of the temporomandibular joint.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-297
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • infection
  • septic arthritis
  • temporomandibular joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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