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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Oct 15;38(22):E1425-31. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182a42a68.

Surgical site infections in spine surgery: identification of microbiologic and surgical characteristics in 239 cases.

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  • 1*Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA; Departments of †Orthopedic Surgery and ‡Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, San Francisco, CA; and §Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of California, San Francisco, CA.



Retrospective analysis.


The objective of this study was to describe the microbiology of surgical site infection (SSI) in spine surgery and relationship with surgical management characteristics.


SSI is an important complication of spine surgery that results in significant morbidity. A comprehensive and contemporary understanding of the microbiology of postoperative spine infections is valuable to direct empiric antimicrobial treatment and prophylaxis and other infection prevention strategies.


All cases of spinal surgery associated with SSI between July 2005 and November 2010 were identified by the hospital infection control surveillance program using Centers for Disease Control National Health Safety Network criteria. Surgical characteristics and microbiologic data for each case were gathered by direct medical record review.


Of 7529 operative spine cases performed between July 2005 and November 2010, 239 cases of SSI were identified. The most commonly isolated pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus (45.2%), followed by Staphylococcus epidermidis (31.4%). Methicillin-resistant organisms accounted for 34.3% of all SSIs and were more common in revision than in primary surgical procedures (47.4% vs. 28.0%, P = 0.003). Gram-negative organisms were identified in 30.5% of the cases. Spine surgical procedures involving the sacrum were significantly associated with gram-negative organisms (P < 0.001) and polymicrobial infections (P = 0.020). Infections due to gram-negative organisms (P = 0.002) and Enterococcus spp. (P = 0.038) were less common in surgical procedures involving the cervical spine. Cefazolin-resistant gram-negative organisms accounted for 61.6% of all gram-negative infections and 18.8% of all SSIs.


Although gram-positive organisms predominated, gram-negative organisms accounted for a sizeable portion of SSI, particularly among lower lumbar and sacral spine surgical procedures. Nearly half of infections in revision surgery were due to a methicillin-resistant organism. These findings may help guide choice of empiric antibiotics while awaiting culture data and antimicrobial prophylaxis strategies in specific spine surgical procedures.



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