Topical vancomycin surgical prophylaxis in pediatric open craniotomies: an institutional experience

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Topical antimicrobial compounds are safe and can reduce cost and complications associated with surgical site infections (SSIs). Topical vancomycin has been an effective tool for reducing SSIs following routine neurosurgical procedures in the spine and following adult craniotomies. However, widespread adoption within the pediatric neurosurgical community has not yet occurred, and there are no studies to report on the safety and efficacy of this intervention. The authors present the first institution-wide study of topical vancomycin following open craniotomy in the pediatric population.


In this retrospective study the authors reviewed all open craniotomies performed over a period from 05/2014 to 12/2016 for topical vancomycin use, SSIs, and clinical variables associated with SSI. Topical vancomycin was utilized as an infection prophylaxis and was applied as a liquid solution following replacement of a bone flap or after dural closure when no bone flap was reapplied.


Overall, 466 consecutive open craniotomies were completed between 05/2014 and 12/2016, of which 43% utilized topical vancomycin. There was a 1.5% SSI rate in the nontopical cohort versus 0% in the topical vancomycin cohort (p = 0.045). The number needed to treat was 66. There were no significant differences in risk factors for SSI between cohorts. There were no complications associated with topical vancomycin use.


Routine topical vancomycin administration during closure of open craniotomies can be a safe and effective tool for reducing SSIs in the pediatric neurosurgical population.

ABBREVIATIONS SSI = surgical site infection.

Article Information

Correspondence Gerald A. Grant: Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford, CA.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online August 24, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.5.PEDS17719.

A.L.H. and J.G.D.C. contributed equally to this work. S.H.C. and G.A.G. contributed equally to and share senior authorship of this work.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    All craniotomies included in the study classified by surgical diagnosis. Figure is available in color online only.



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