Medical Specialty >> Infections

Doctors Lounge - Infections Answers

Back to Infections Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge ( does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/12/2017.

Forum Name: Other infections

Question: WBC36000 Infection/Inflammation not resolved by Antibiotics

 brodiemojo - Mon Sep 10, 2007 12:41 am

My mom, 73, was admitted to the hospital today. They withdrew two vials of fluid from a swollen knee. It was yellow. They said it tested for a white cell count of 36000. What does that mean?

She has had an unknown cellulitus/infection --redness, swelling, painful to touch--in her foot-same leg as knee issue on and off for the last 5 weeks. Two hospital admits. Several intraveinous antibiotics and pills. No cuts or sore.
Her knee started hurting badly this week after she was discharged from the hospital. She couldn't walk at all and was in much pain. They admitted her early this morning. Now they are talking about surgery on her knee. What does the 36000 WBC count possibly represent? I understand infection, but how, from where? There were no cuts on her foot.
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Mon Sep 10, 2007 8:09 pm

User avatar Hi Brodiemojo,

If I am understanding correctly, the WBC of 36,000 was from the fluid in the knee. Is this correct? White blood cells in the knee fluid indicate infection within the knee joint, a condition called septic arthritis. This condition often needs to have the knee joint opened and washed out by the surgeons. This will help wash out a lot of the bacterial load and allow the antibiotics to work much better and faster. It also minimizes damage to the knee joint from the bacteria.

If the WBC count was from her blood it still would be an indicator of infection or significant inflammation. Given that there was fluid in the knee, the washout may still be needed.

These infections often come from bacteria traveling in the blood that gets to the joint and sets up infection. It may have initially started as a cellulitis of the foot and traveled up to the knee. This is a known possibility (though not particularly common) with a cellulitis of the lower leg.

Antibiotics and drainage should bring the infection under control. As to what caused the initial infection it is hard to say. There may have been a small amount of trauma to the foot that wasn't even noticed, allowing the bacteria from the skin to get in and cause infection.

Best wishes.

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us