Are antibiotic nails effective in the treatment of infected tibial fractures?
BACKGROUND: Antibiotic-impregnated cement nails are used to treat postoperative deep infections after primary intramedullary nail insertion for the treatment of tibial fractures. Few data exist regarding the efficacy of this treatment strategy. We hypothesized that such treatment with antibiotic nails results in a high rate of infection clearance at intermediate follow-up. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective review at our Level I trauma center. Patients who received intramedullary nails to stabilize tibial fractures (from 2000 to 2011) and subsequently required antibiotic nails to treat deep postoperative infection (n=55) were considered for study inclusion. Patients with less than 6 months of follow-up were excluded, leaving 41 patients in the study group (average age, 41 years; average follow-up, 20 months). RESULTS: Thirty-one patients (76%) had no evidence of infection after treatment. The 10 patients for whom treatment failed were shown to have infection within the first 6 months. Two experienced persistent infection after antibiotic nail removal, necessitating massive débridement and ring fixator placement. Four patients underwent repeat antibiotic nail insertion after persistent infection. Three infections resulted in eventual above-knee amputations, and one chronic infection resulted in the need for multiple débridement and saucerization procedures. No complications associated with use of the antibiotic nails were observed. CONCLUSION: The use of antibiotic nails for treatment of tibial infections seems to be a reasonable option, clearing 76% of infections at the 6-month time frame. Further investigation is needed to compare this treatment algorithm with other strategies, such as antibiotic treatment without nail removal and massive débridement with ring fixator placement.
Reilly, RM; Robertson, T; O'Toole, RV; Manson, TT
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