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J Spine Surg. 2018 Jun;4(2):173-179. doi: 10.21037/jss.2018.05.04.

The combined administration of vancomycin IV, standard prophylactic antibiotics, and vancomycin powder in spinal instrumentation surgery: does the routine use affect infection rates and bacterial resistance?

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Orthopaedic Institute for Children, Santa Monica, CA, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Surgical site infections (SSI) poses significant risk following spinal instrumentation surgery. The 2013 North American Spine Society (NASS) Evidence-Based Clinical Guidelines found that the incidence of SSI in spine surgery ranged from 0.7-10%, with higher rates with medical comorbidities. National guidelines currently recommend first-generation cephalosporins as first line prophylaxis. Due to an increase in MRSA cases in our institution, a combined antibiotic strategy using vancomycin IV, standard prophylactic antibiotics, and vancomycin powder was implemented for all spinal instrumentation surgeries.


All spinal instrumentation surgeries performed at this institution from 2013-2016 were identified. Chart review was then performed to identify the inclusion and exclusion criteria, demographic data, diagnosis, type of surgery performed, and bacterial culture results. Rates of SSI, as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), were calculated and antibiotic resistance was determined. As control, SSIs were identified and reviewed from 2010, prior to the implementation of the combined strategy.


One thousand and seventy four subjects were identified in the combined cohort. Mean age was 52.3 years, 540 males (50.2%), 534 females (49.8%). There were 960 primary surgeries (89.4%), 114 cases revision surgeries (10.6%). Cervical myelopathy (27.9%), lumbar stenosis (16.2%), lumbar spondylolisthesis (14.0%), and scoliosis (pediatric and adult)/deformity (13.7%) were leading diagnoses. The standard prophylactic antibiotic was cefazolin IV in 524 cases (48.8%), gentamicin IV in 526 cases (49.0%), vancomycin powder was used in 72.3% of cases. Four SSI cases out of 1,074 were identified (0.37%), 3 deep and 1 superficial, with no antibiotic resistance. In the control group, there were 11 infections of 892 cases (1.23%). There were significantly lower rates of SSI in the combined group versus control (P=0.05).


The combined antibiotic strategy led to low SSI rates in this retrospective case control study. Limitations of this study include retrospective design and small sample size. A large multicenter randomized clinical trial may provide further insight in the effectiveness of this strategy. Level of evidence 3. Clinical relevance: the combined antibiotic protocol may be considered in institutions with concern for SSI and methicillin resistant infections associated with spinal instrumentation surgeries.


Surgical site infections; prophylactic antibiotics; spinal instrumentation; spine surgery

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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