A comparison of short- and long-term intravenous antibiotic therapy in the postoperative management of adult osteomyelitis

M. F. Swiontkowski, D. P. Hanel, N. B. Vedder, J. R. Schwappach

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The current standard recommendation for antibiotic therapy in the management of chronic osteomyelitis is intravenous treatment for six weeks. We have compared this regime with short-term intravenous therapy followed by oral dosage. A total of 93 patients, with chronic osteomyelitis, underwent single-stage, aggressive surgical debridement and appropriate soft-tissue coverage. Culture-specific intravenous antibiotics were given for five to seven days, followed by oral therapy for six weeks. During surgery, the scar, including the sinus track, was excised en bloc. We used a high-speed, saline-cooled burr to remove necrotic bone, and osseous laser Doppler flowmetry to ensure that the remaining bone was viable. Infected nonunions (Cierny stage-IV osteomyelitis) were stabilised by internal fixation. In 38 patients management of dead space required antibiotic-impregnated polymethylmethacrylate beads, which were exchanged for an autogenous bone graft at six weeks. Free-tissue transfer often facilitated soft-tissue coverage. These 93 patients were compared with 22 consecutive patients treated previously who had the same surgical management, but received culture-specific intravenous antibiotics for six weeks. Of the 93 patients, 80 healed without further intervention. Of the 31 Cierny-IV lesions, 27 healed without another operation, and four fractures required additional bone grafts. No more wound drainage was needed. Treatment was successful in 91% of patients, regardless of the organism involved. There was no difference in outcome in terms of these variables when the series were compared. We conclude that the long-term administration of intravenous antibiotics is not necessary to achieve a high rate of clinical resolution of wound drainage for adult patients with chronic osteomyelitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1050
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series B
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1999


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