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Antibiotic Cement-Coated Plates for Management of Infected Fractures

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Deep infection in the presence of an implant after open reduction and internal fixation is usually treated with removal of the implant, serial débridement procedures, lavage, intravenously administered antibiotics, and occasionally, placement of antibiotic-impregnated beads. If infection occurs during the early stages of bone healing, fracture stabilization might be compromised after implant removal.

Osteomyelitis, unstable owing to a bone deficit or fracture, was treated with an antibiotic cement–coated (tobramycin and vancomycin) plate. The goal was successful eradication of infection with the patient remaining infection-free for 1 year. Four patients were treated with antibiotic-coated plates for osteomyelitis and all have achieved successful union, clinically free of signs of infection for more than 1 year. One patient experienced a prominent and painful plate, necessitating removal.

Based on our experience, early aggressive débridement coupled with broad-spectrum antibiotic cement–coated plate insertion, provides fracture stability and helps eradicate the infection with 1 surgical procedure.


 

References

Deep infection in the presence of an implant after open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) is usually treated with removal of the implant, serial débridement procedures, lavage, intravenously administered antibiotics, and, in some cases, placement of antibiotic-impregnated beads. If infection occurs during the early stages of bone healing, stabilization of the fractures might be compromised after removal of the implant. Although antibiotic-impregnated beads offer local delivery of antibiotics, they do not provide structural support of the fracture site. The beads often are difficult to remove after in-growth of granulation tissue. In areas of subcutaneous bone, an antibiotic bead pouch might be preferred to an open wound. Published research regarding the use of antibiotic-coated plates during the acute or chronic stages of infection is scarce. Plates offer the versatility of fracture stabilization, and the addition of antibiotic cement to the plates might aid in eradication of infection without necessitating a second surgery for removal. The patients provided written informed consent for print and electronic publication of these case reports.

Technique

After removal of implants, we perform débridement of the soft tissues with a hydroscalpel (Versajet; Smith & Nephew, London, United Kingdom), mechanical débridement of bone, and curettage with high speed burr. The wound is then irrigated with pulse pressure lavage and a minimum of 3 L sterile normal saline. The extremity is re-prepped and re-draped; the entire surgical team’s gowns and gloves are changed; and new instrumentation, including cautery and suction equipment, is used. The cement is prepared with tobramycin (3.6 g) and vancomycin (1 g) per 40-g bag of cement. The plate is placed in silicon tubing, and the antibiotic-prepared cement is injected into the tubing and molded until dry. Care is taken to mold the locations of the screw holes by making incisions in the tubing at the appropriate locations. Screws are placed through the screw holes to ensure locking capability, and Kirschner wires are placed through temporary fixation holes (Figure 1). Once dry, the screws and wires are removed from the plate, and the cement-coated plate is removed from the tubing. The antibiotic-coated plate is applied to the fracture or osteotomy site and is seated with screws as appropriate (Figure 2). The wound is closed primarily. Wound drains or vacuum-assisted closure devices are not routinely used unless there is high risk for hematoma formation. The authors prefer to have high local concentrations of antibiotic in the surrounding tissues and wound.

Clinical Series

Case 1

A 31-year-old man fell from a ladder and sustained a bimalleolar ankle fracture-dislocation that was treated with ORIF. Three weeks after initial injury, the patient presented with an infected lateral wound with purulent discharge. He was taken to the operating room for initial débridement, irrigation, and fracture stabilization with an antibiotic-coated plate and tension-band wiring of the medial malleoli. He was discharged from the hospital on day 4 after admission. Cultures of the wound grew beta-hemolytic strep group G and coagulase-negative staphylococci in broth that was sensitive to oxacillin, vancomycin, and gentamycin. The patient was treated with a 6-week regimen of Unasyn (Roerig, New York, New York), developed bony union, and has been free of clinical signs of infection for 2 years (Figures 3, 4).

Case 2

A 27-year-old male carpenter fell from a height of 12 feet and sustained a fracture of the distal radius that was treated with external fixation. The proximal pin site became clinically infected and subsequently developed osteomyelitis. The patient had a draining wound with a fracture for 2 months. He underwent débridement with partial resection of the radius and placement of an antibiotic cement–coated plate and calcium phosphate bone-void filler impregnated with antibiotics. Pathology specimens were positive for osteomyelitis, and bone cultures showed methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). He received intravenously administered antibiotic therapy for 6 weeks after surgery. The patient has remained free of clinical signs of infection for more than 1 year and has achieved bony union (Figures 5A, 5B).

Case 3

A 44-year-old woman with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and venous stasis sustained a trimalleolar ankle fracture after a low-energy fall that was initially treated with ORIF. She underwent revision ORIF to treat a malunion 3 months after initial treatment. At 8 months, the patient developed a draining sinus communicating with the plate. Computed tomography revealed nonunion and indicated infection. The patient underwent resection of the osteomyelitis and repair of the fibular nonunion with an antibiotic-coated plate. Tissue cultures were positive for coagulase-negative staphylococcus, and pathology specimens were positive for osteomyelitis. She received postoperative antibiotics intravenously and 6 weeks of antibiotic therapy after discharge from the hospital. The patient has remained free of clinical signs of infection for more than 1 year and has achieved bony union (Figures 6, 7).

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