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J Orthop Res. 2005 Jan;23(1):27-33.

An articulated antibiotic spacer used for infected total knee arthroplasty: a comparative in vitro elution study of Simplex and Palacos bone cements.

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Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Division of Infectious Diseases, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0165, USA.


For the staged management of infected total knee arthroplasty (TKA), antibiotic laden polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers have been recommended. Antibiotic-impregnated PMMA spacers target drug delivery, achieving high local levels while limiting the potential for host toxicity associated with parenteral antimicrobial therapy. This study examined the elution characteristics of an articulating PMMA TKA spacer that has been useful clinically. Tobramycin and vancomycin are both active against many organisms leading to joint infections. We used various combined antibiotic concentrations (maintaining a relative ratio of 55% tobramycin to 45% vancomycin w/w), and then assayed the elution profile of the TKA spacer in vitro. Additionally, the elution qualities of two brands of bone cement, Simplex and Palacos, were compared. Briefly, three groups of PMMA spacers, impregnated with different antibiotic loads, were fashioned from a mold replicating a femoral TKA component. The entire spacer surface area was immersed in sterile phosphate buffered saline (PBS) in a 1:6 ratio of grams of cement to milliliters of PBS and incubated at 37 degrees C for 24 h. After 24 h, aliquot eluates were taken, the PBS discarded, and replaced with fresh, sterile PBS. PBS was changed daily and an aliquot was taken at least weekly for nine weeks. Eluate samples were stored at -70 degrees C until assayed. Each spacer eluate sample's antibiotic concentration was determined by disc diffusion bioassay against Bacillus subtilis. Mean zone inhibition diameters were extrapolated from the standard curve to yield micrograms per milliliter of antibiotic in PBS. In all groups the Palacos spacers demonstrated higher elution levels, above the MIC for the organism used, for a longer period of time than those made with Simplex. Based on the observed elution profiles, antibiotic-impregnated Palacos bone cement may offer a more effective vehicle for local drug delivery during staged treatment of infected TKA.

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