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Bacterial arthritis continues to present a difficult clinical and therapeutic problem, necessitating prompt diagnosis and intensive therapy. This study comprises a 10 year review of the condition in an English health district, with particular reference to aetiology, presentation, treatment, and outcome. Although the causative organisms remain qualitatively unchanged, increasing numbers of patients are elderly, immunosuppressed, or have underlying arthropathy. Factors which influence outcome include age, causative organism, joint involved, and delay in diagnosis. Attention is drawn to the notably poor outcome of hip infections in the elderly.