An empiric analysis of 5 counter measures against surgical site infections following spine surgery—a pragmatic approach and review of the literature

Marko Tomov, Nathan Wanderman, Elie Berbari, Bradford Currier, Michael Yaszemski, Ahmad Nassr, Paul Huddleston, Mohamad Bydon, Brett Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Surgical site infections (SSI) following spine surgery are debilitating complications to patients and costly to the healthcare system. PURPOSE: Review the impact and cost effectiveness of 5 SSI prevention interventions on SSI rates in an orthopedic spine surgery practice at a major quaternary healthcare system over a 10-year period. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective observational study. PATIENT SAMPLE: All of the surgical patients of the 5 spine surgeons in our department over a 10-year period were included in this study. OUTCOME MEASURES: SSI rates per year, standardized infection ratios (SIR) for laminectomies and fusions during the most recent 3-year period, year of implementation, and frequency of use of the different interventions, cost of the techniques. METHODS: The SSI prevention techniques described in this paper include application of intrawound vancomycin powder, wound irrigation with dilute betadine solution, preoperative chlorhexidine gluconate scrubs, preoperative screening with nasal swabbing, and decolonization of S. aureus, and perioperative antibiotic administration. Our institution's infection prevention and control data were analyzed for the yearly SSI rates for the orthopedic spine surgery department from 2006 to 2016. In addition, our orthopedic spine surgeons were polled to determine with what frequency and duration they have been using the different SSI prevention interventions. RESULTS: SSI rates decreased from almost 6% per year the first year of observation to less than 2% per year in the final 6 years of this study. A SIR of less than 1.0 for each year was observed for laminectomies and fusions for the period from 2013 to 2016. All surgeons polled at our institution uniformly used perioperative antibiotics, Hibiclens scrub, and the nasal swab protocol since the implementation of these techniques. Some variability existed in the frequency and duration of betadine irrigation and application of vancomycin powder. A cost analysis demonstrated these methods to be nominal compared with the cost of treating a single SSI. CONCLUSIONS: It is possible to reduce SSI rates in spine surgery with easy, safe, and cost-effective protocols, when implemented in a standardized manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Betadine irrigation
  • Chlorhexidine scrubs
  • Nasal swab S. aureus decolonization
  • Perioperative antibiotics
  • Surgical site infection
  • Vancomycin powder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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