Object. Management of infection in the hardware system—fixated spine has proven to be problematic. In many cases, instrumentation is required to provide stability or to maintain correction of deformity, and removal could be hazardous. The authors describe the use of closed continuous irrigation to treat spinal wound infections in patients with fixation systems; irrigation can be used in all parts of the spine with excellent results.
Methods. The authors conducted a retrospective chart-based review of cases in which spinal instrumentation procedures were performed consecutively during a 10-year period.
Infection developed in 36 patients. The infections involved the cervical, thoracic or thoracolumbar, and lumbar regions. Anterior and posterior drains were placed in one patient. In one patient refractory infections responded to replacement of the dual-inflow port drainage system. In all cases the wound infection completely resolved. There were no cases that required the removal of the fusion mass or instrumentation. In all cases progression to solid fusion was achieved.
Conclusions. Closed irrigation systems can be used effectively to manage anterior or posterior cervical, thoracic, and lumbar wound infections. These systems preclude the explantation of the instrumentation and allow spinal stability to be preserved. The authors noted no evidence of recurrent infection or failed fusion.