[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The etiological diagnosis of prosthetic joint infection (PJI) requires the isolation of microorganisms from periprosthetic samples. Microbiological cultures often yield false-positive and false-negative results. 16S rRNA gene PCR combined with sequencing (16SPCR) has proven useful for diagnosing various infections. We performed a prospective study to compare the utility of this approach with that of culture to diagnose PJI using intraoperative periprosthetic samples. We analyzed 176 samples from 40 patients with PJI and 321 samples from 82 noninfected patients using conventional culture and 16SPCR. Three statistical studies were undertaken following a previously validated mathematical model: sample-to-sample analysis, calculation of the number of samples to be studied, and calculation of the number of positive samples necessary to diagnose PJI. When only the number of positive samples is taken into consideration, a 16SPCR-positive result in one sample has good specificity and positive predictive value for PJI (specificity, 96.3%; positive predictive value, 91.7%; and likelihood ratio [LR], 22), while 3 positive cultures with the same microorganism are necessary to achieve similar specificity. The best combination of results for 16SPCR was observed when 5 samples were studied and the same microorganism was detected in 2 of them (sensitivity, 94%; specificity, 100%; and LR, 69.62). The results for 5 samples with 2 positive cultures were 96% and 82%, respectively, and the likelihood ratio was 1.06. 16SPCR is more specific and has a better positive predictive value than culture for diagnosis of PJI. A positive 16SPCR result is largely suggestive of PJI, even when few samples are analyzed; however, culture is generally more sensitive.