The use of vancomycin powder in spine surgery for prophylaxis against surgical site infections (SSIs) is well debated in the literature, with the majority of studies demonstrating improvement and some studies demonstrating no significant reduction in infection rate. It is well known in certain populations that vancomycin powder reduces the general rate of infection, but its effects on reducing the rate of infection due to gram-negative pathogens are not well reviewed. The goal of this paper was to review studies that investigated the efficacy of vancomycin powder as a prophylactic agent against SSI and demonstrate whether the rate of infections by gram-negative pathogens is impacted.
An electronic search of the published literature was performed using PubMed and Google Scholar in accordance with the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. A variety of combinations of the search terms “vancomycin powder,” “infection,” “spine,” “gram-negative,” “prophylaxis,” and “surgical site” was used. Inclusion criteria were studies that 1) described an experimental group that received intraoperative intrawound vancomycin powder; 2) included adequately controlled groups that did not receive intraoperative intrawound vancomycin powder; 3) included the number of patients in both the experimental and control groups who developed infection after their spine surgery; and 4) identified the pathogen-causing infection. Studies not directly related to this review’s investigation were excluded from the initial screen. Among the studies that met the criteria of the initial screen, additional reasons for exclusion from the systematic review included lack of a control group, unspecified size of control groups, and inconsistent use of vancomycin powder in the experimental group.
This systematic review includes 21 studies with control groups. Vancomycin powder significantly reduced the relative risk of developing an SSI (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.45–0.67, p < 0.0001). In addition, the use of vancomycin powder did not significantly increase the risk of infection by gram-negative pathogens (RR 1.11, 95% CI 0.66–1.86, p = 0.701).
The results of this systematic review suggest that intrawound vancomycin powder is protective against SSI. It is less clear if this treatment increases the risk of gram-negative infection. Further studies are required to investigate whether rates of infection due to gram-negative pathogens are affected by the use of vancomycin powder.