Pediatric unilateral knee swelling: a case report of a complicated differential diagnosis and often overlooked cause

Katherine E. Guardado, OMS II; and Shane Sergent, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: December 30, 2020

Accepted: August 25, 2021

Published: January 6, 2022

  • Katherine E. Guardado, OMS II, 

    Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Lansing, MI, USA

  • Shane Sergent, DO, 

    Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Lansing, MI, USA

J Osteopath Med; 122(2): 105-109

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States. However, Lyme arthritis is a diagnosis that is often missed, even in children, who are the population with the highest incidence of Lyme disease. Lyme arthritis, which presents in the later stage of Borrelia burgdorferi infection, needs to be recognized and managed promptly, especially in endemic areas or when exposure to ticks is known. We present a case of a 3-year-old female presenting to the emergency department with a history of limping for 2 weeks. The mother of the child recognized a tick bite. However, the child was not taken to seek care expeditiously, because she had not developed any rashes. Test results demonstrated that the patient was IgG positive and IgM negative for Lyme disease, with Western blot confirming the diagnosis of Lyme arthritis. Most patients presenting with Lyme arthritis do not recall having a tick bite, making it difficult to differentiate it from other pediatric conditions. When this diagnosis is missed, it can result in long-term morbidity, which is generally refractory to intravenous antibiotic therapy, oftentimes requiring synovectomy. Hence, this underscores the importance of the consideration of Lyme arthritis as a differential diagnosis in patients presenting with joint effusion.

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