Background: To examine the surgical site infection (SSI) rates in patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion surgery for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) after implementation of a change in antibiotic prophylaxis and intraoperative irrigation.
Methods: A retrospective review of all consecutive spinal fusions for AIS from 1996 to 2008 was performed. In 2003, 2 changes in our protocol were implemented: (1) routine antibiotic prophylaxis was changed from cefazolin alone to vancomycin and ceftazidime; (2) intraoperative irrigation technique was changed from bulb syringe to pulse lavage irrigation. We compared the rates of deep SSI requiring irrigation and debridement before institution of these changes (1996 to 2002) to the rates after these changes (2003 to 2008).
Results: Before the change in the antibiotic and lavage regimen, 261 spinal fusions were performed. Of these, 28/261 (11%) patients underwent irrigation and debridement for SSI. The most common infecting pathogen was coagulase-negative Staphylococcus aureus (47%). Between the years 2003 and 2008, 263 spinal fusions were performed. Only 2/263 (0.7%) patients underwent irrigation and debridement for SSI. This decrease in infection rate is highly significant (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Routine use of vancomycin and ceftazidime and pulsatile lavage for posterior spinal fusion in AIS patients decreased the rates of postoperative infection by 10 fold. As 2 variables were changed, it is impossible to know the relative effect of each. However, as spine infections can be so devastating, and the potential risks of these changes are small, we recommend both the new antibiotic and irrigation protocol.
Level of Evidence: Level III.