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Intrawound Vancomycin Powder Eradicates Surgical Wound ContaminationAn in Vivo Rabbit Study
Lukas P. Zebala, MD1; Tapanut Chuntarapas, MD1; Michael P. Kelly, MD1; Michael Talcott, DVM1; Suellen Greco, DVM1; K. Daniel Riew, MD1
1 Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery (L.P.Z., T.C., M.P.K., and K.D.R.) and Comparative Medicine (M.T. and S.G.), Washington University in St. Louis, One Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, Suite 11300 WP, CB 8233, St. Louis, MO 63110. E-mail address for L.P. Zebala: zebalal@wustl.edu
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Investigation performed at the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Comparative Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Peer Review: This article was reviewed by the Editor-in-Chief and one Deputy Editor, and it underwent blinded review by two or more outside experts. It was also reviewed by an expert in methodology and statistics. The Deputy Editor reviewed each revision of the article, and it underwent a final review by the Editor-in-Chief prior to publication. Final corrections and clarifications occurred during one or more exchanges between the author(s) and copyeditors.

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2014 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2014 Jan 01;96(1):46-51. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.01257
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Surgical site infection remains a complication of spine surgery despite routine use of prophylactic antibiotics. Retrospective clinical studies of intrawound vancomycin use have documented a decreased prevalence of surgical site infection after spine surgery. The purpose of the present study was to assess the efficacy of intrawound vancomycin powder in terms of eradicating a known bacterial surgical site contamination in a rabbit spine surgery model.


Twenty New Zealand White rabbits underwent lumbar partial laminectomy and wire implantation. The surgical sites were inoculated, prior to closure, by injecting 100 μL of cefazolin-sensitive and vancomycin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) (1 × 108 colony-forming units [CFU]/mL) into the wound. Preoperative cefazolin was administered to all rabbits, and vancomycin powder (100 mg) was placed into the wound of ten rabbits prior to closure. The rabbits were killed on postoperative day four, and tissue and wire samples were obtained for bacteriologic assessment. An independent samples t test was used to assess mean group differences, and a Fisher exact test was used to assess differences in categorical variables.


The vancomycin-treated and the control rabbits were similar in weight (mean [and standard deviation], 4.1 ± 0.5 kg and 4.0 ± 0.4 kg, respectively; p = 0.60) and sex distribution and had similar durations of surgery (21.7 ± 7.7 minutes and 16.9 ± 6.7 minutes; p = 0.15). The bacterial cultures of the surgical site tissues were negative for all ten vancomycin-treated rabbits and positive for all ten control rabbits (p < 0.0001). Bacterial growth occurred in thirty-nine of forty samples from the control group but in zero of forty samples from the vancomycin group (p < 0.0001). All blood and liver samples were sterile. No rabbit had evidence of sepsis or vancomycin toxicity. Gross examination of the surgical sites showed no differences between the groups.


In a rabbit spine-infection model, intrawound vancomycin powder in combination with preoperative cefazolin eliminated S. aureus surgical site contamination. All rabbits that were managed with only prophylactic cefazolin had persistent S. aureus contamination.

Clinical Relevance: 

This animal study supports the findings in prior clinical reports that intrawound vancomycin powder helps reduce the risk of surgical site infections.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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