Rationale for one stage exchange of infected hip replacement using uncemented implants and antibiotic impregnated bone graft

Heinz Winkler
International Journal of Medical Sciences 2009, 6 (5): 247-52
Infection of a total hip replacement (THR) is considered a devastating complication, necessitating its complete removal and thorough debridement of the site. It is undoubted that one stage exchange, if successful, would provide the best benefit both for the patient and the society. Still the fear of re-infection dominates the surgeons decisions and in the majority of cases directs them to multiple stage protocols. However, there is no scientifically based argument for that practice. Successful eradication of infection with two stage procedures is reported to average 80% to 98%. On the other hand a literature review of Jackson and Schmalzried (CORR 2000) summarizing the results of 1,299 infected hip replacements treated with direct exchange (almost exclusively using antibiotic loaded cement), reports of 1,077 (83%) having been successful. The comparable results suggest, that the major factor for a successful outcome with traditional approaches may be found in the quality of surgical debridement and dead space management. Failures in all protocols seem to be caused by small fragments of bacterial colonies remaining after debridement, whereas neither systemic antibiotics nor antibiotic loaded bone cement (PMMA) have been able to improve the situation significantly. Reasons for failure may be found in the limited sensitivity of traditional bacterial culturing and reduced antibiotic susceptibility of involved pathogens, especially considering biofilm formation. Whenever a new prosthesis is implanted into a previously infected site the surgeon must be aware of increased risk of failure, both in single or two stage revisions. Eventual removal therefore should be easy with low risk of additional damage to the bony substance. On the other hand it should also have potential of a good long term result in case of success. Cemented revisions generally show inferior long term results compared to uncemented techniques; the addition of antibiotics to cement reduces its biomechanical properties. Efficient cementing techniques will result in tight bonding with the underlying bone, making eventual removal time consuming and possibly associated with further damage to the osseous structures. All these issues are likely to make uncemented revisions more desirable. Allograft bone may be impregnated with high loads of antibiotics using special incubation techniques. The storage capacities and pharmacological kinetics of the resulting antibiotic bone compound (ABC) are more advantageous than the ones of antibiotic loaded cement. ABC provides local concentrations exceeding those of cement by more than a 100fold and efficient release is prolonged for several weeks. The same time they are likely to restore bone stock, which usually is compromised after removal of an infected endoprosthesis. ABC may be combined with uncemented implants for improved long term results and easy removal in case of a failure. Specifications of appropriate designs are outlined. Based on these considerations new protocols for one stage exchange of infected TJR have been established. Bone voids surrounding the implants may be filled with antibiotic impregnated bone graft; uncemented implants may be fixed in original bone. Recent studies indicate an overall success rate of more than 90% without any adverse side effects. Incorporation of allografts appears as after grafting with unimpregnated bone grafts. Antibiotic loaded bone graft seems to provide sufficient local antibiosis for protection against colonisation of uncemented implants, the eluted amounts of antibiotics are likely to eliminate biofilm remnants, dead space management is more complete and defects may be reconstructed efficiently. Uncemented implants provide improved long term results in case of success and facilitated re-revision in case of failure. One stage revision using ABC together with uncemented implants such should be at least comparably save as multiple stage procedures, taking advantage of the obvious benefits for patients and economy.

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