The use of intrawound vancomycin is rapidly being adopted for the prevention of surgical site infection (SSI) in spinal surgery. At operative closure, the placement of vancomycin powder in the wound bed—in addition to standard infection prophylaxis—can provide high concentrations of antibiotics with minimal systemic absorption. However, despite its popularity, to date the majority of studies on intrawound vancomycin are retrospective, and there are no prior reports highlighting the risks of routine treatment.
A MEDLINE search for pertinent literature was conducted for studies published between 1966 and May 2015 using the following MeSH search terms: “intrawound vancomycin,” “operative lumbar spine complications,” and “nonoperative lumbar spine complications.” This was supplemented with references and known literature on the topic.
An advanced MEDLINE search conducted on May 6, 2015, using the search string “intrawound vancomycin” found 22 results. After a review of all abstracts for relevance to intrawound vancomycin use in spinal surgery, 10 studies were reviewed in detail. Three meta-analyses were evaluated from the initial search, and 2 clinical studies were identified. After an analysis of all of the identified manuscripts, 3 additional studies were included for a total of 16 studies. Fourteen retrospective studies and 2 prospective studies were identified, resulting in a total of 9721 patients. A total of 6701 (68.9%) patients underwent treatment with intrawound vancomycin. The mean SSI rate among the control and vancomycin-treated patients was 7.47% and 1.36%, respectively. There were a total of 23 adverse events: nephropathy (1 patient), ototoxicity resulting in transient hearing loss (2 patients), systemic absorption resulting in supratherapeutic vancomycin exposure (1 patient), and culture-negative seroma formation (19 patients). The overall adverse event rate for the total number of treated patients was 0.3%.
Intrawound vancomycin use appears to be safe and effective for reducing postoperative SSIs with a low rate of morbidity. Study disparities and limitations in size, patient populations, designs, and outcomes measures contribute significant bias that could not be fully rectified by this systematic review. Moreover, care should be exercised in the use of intrawound vancomycin due to the lack of well-designed, prospective studies that evaluate the efficacy of vancomycin and include the appropriate systems to capture drug-related complications.