Non-healing surgical wound


Q: My husband has had two surgeries on his left elbow due to inflammation and drainage. The first surgery, wound was kept open to heal, but it kept draining and would not heal. Doctor decided to operate again only this time put stitches in to close the wound. Took stitches out and it is still draining. Doctor doesn't know what it is. They have sent samples to the lab, but it did not show infection (growth on slide). What should we do now? Can you give me some insight into what type of doctor to see? This has been going on for four months now.


A:   The persistent drainage from the wound along with the failure of the wound to heal likely represent a chronic infection in the elbow joint. Even though previous tests performed on the fluid have not demonstrated any signs of infection. I suspect that the tests done have most likely been aimed at identifying the common causes of an infectious arthritis. It seems clear that the bacteria or other organism responsible for this infection is not easily isolated by the usual tests. I suggest further consultation with an orthopedic surgeon who has special expertise in joint infections and their treatment.

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