Although the use of topical vancomycin has been shown to be safe and effective for reducing postoperative infection rates in patients after spine surgery, its use in cranial wounds has not been studied systematically. The authors hypothesized that topical vancomycin, applied in powder form directly to the subgaleal space during closure, would reduce cranial wound infection rates.
A cohort of 150 consecutive patients who underwent craniotomy was studied retrospectively. Seventy-five patients received 1 g of vancomycin powder applied in the subgaleal space at the time of closure. This group was compared with 75 matched-control patients who were accrued over the same time interval and did not receive vancomycin. The primary outcome measure was the presence of surgical site infection within 3 months. Secondary outcome measures included tissue pH from a subgaleal drain and vancomycin levels from the subgaleal space and serum.
Vancomycin was associated with significantly fewer surgical site infections (1 of 75) than was standard antibiotic prophylaxis alone (5 of 75; p < 0.05). Cultures were positive for typical skin flora species. As expected, local measured vancomycin concentrations peaked immediately after surgery (mean ± SD 499 ± 37 μg/ml) and gradually decreased over 12 hours. Vancomycin in the circulating serum remained undetectable. Subgaleal topical vancomycin was associated with a lower incidence of surgical site infections after craniotomy. The authors attribute this reduction in the infection rate to local vancomycin concentrations well above the minimum inhibitory concentration for antimicrobial efficacy.
Topical vancomycin is safe and effective for reducing surgical site infections after craniotomy. These data support the need for a prospective randomized examination of topical vancomycin in the setting of cranial surgery.