High-energy periarticular tibia fractures are challenging injuries with a significant risk of complications. Postoperative infection rates, although improved, remain unacceptable. Intrawound topical antibiotic (TA) application has been popularized to reduce postoperative infections. Although TA may minimize infections, it remains unclear whether TAs have any impact on the development of nonunion. Recent investigations of TA use in fracture care have questioned its efficacy in vivo and suggested a potentially deleterious effect on fracture healing. This study investigates the impact of TA on nonunion rates in surgically treated high-energy periarticular tibia fractures.
Retrospective analysis of surgically treated periarticular tibia fractures at a single Level 1 trauma center was conducted. Intervention in question was the clinical effect of intrawound TA powder application at definitive closure. A total of 222 high-energy periarticular tibia fractures were included, 114 with TA use and 108 without. The primary outcome was the occurrence of nonunion, with secondary outcomes being superficial and deep postoperative surgical site infections.
Twenty-seven patients (12.1%) were diagnosed with nonunions (14 pilons and 13 plateaus). There was no statistically significant difference in nonunion rates among patients who received topical antibiotics (15.8%) versus the group of patients who did not (8.3%) (P = 0.23). Odds of developing nonunion was significant for open injuries (odds ratio 6.16, P < 0.001) and patients with a provisional external fixator (odds ratio 8.72, P = 0.03) before definitive fixation. No notable difference in the number of superficial and deep infections was identified between groups.
The use of TA in high-energy periarticular tibia fractures showed no statistically significant increase in nonunion rates but did not conclusively rule out nonunion as a possible effect of intrawound TA. Additional large-scale multicenter prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings. The current body of literature regarding high-energy periarticular tibia fractures does suggest that TAs lower the risk of postoperative infections, but the nonunion risk remains unclear.
Level of Evidence:
Level III, Retrospective Cohort Study