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Therapy of spinal wound infections using vacuum-assisted wound closure: risk factors leading to resistance to treatment.

STUDY DESIGN: This study retrospectively reviewed spine surgical procedures complicated by wound infection and managed by a protocol including the use of vacuum-assisted wound closure (VAC).

OBJECTIVE: To define factors influencing the number of debridements needed before the final wound closure by applying VAC for patients with postoperative spinal wound infections.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: VAC has been suggested as a safe and probably effective method for the treatment of spinal wound infections. The risk factors for infection resistance and need for debridement revisions after VAC placement are unknown.

METHODS: Seventy-three consecutive patients with 79 wound infections after undergoing spine surgery were studied (6 of them had recurrence of infection). All patients were taken to the operating room for irrigation and debridement under general anesthesia followed by placement of the VAC with subsequent delayed closure of the wound. Linear regression and t test were used to identify if the following variables were risk factors for the resistance of infection to VAC treatment: timing of clinical appearance of infection, depth of infection (deep or superficial), presence of instrumentation, positive culture for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or more than 1 microorganism, age of the patient, and presence of other comorbidities.

RESULTS: There were 34 males and 39 females with an average age of 58.4 years (21 to 82). Once the VAC was initiated, there was an average of 1.4 procedures until and including closure of the wound. The wound was closed an average of 7 days (range 5 to 14) after the placement of the initial VAC on the wound. The average follow-up was 14 months (range 12 to 28). All of the patients but 2 achieved a clean, closed wound without removal of instrumentation at a minimum follow-up of 1 year. Sixty patients had implants (instrumentation or allograft) within the site of wound infection. Thirteen patients had a decompression with exposed dura. Sixty-four infections (81%) presented with a draining wound within the first 6 weeks postoperatively. Sixty-nine infections (87.3%) were deep below the fascia. There was no statistical significance (P>0.05) of all tested risk factors for the resistance of infection to treatment with the VAC system. The parameter more related to repeat VAC procedures was the culture of MRSA or multiple bacteria.

CONCLUSIONS: VAC therapy may be an effective adjunct in closing spinal wounds even after the repeat procedures. The MRSA or multibacterial infections seem to be most likely to need repeat debridements and VAC treatment before final wound closure.

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