Contamination of the medullary canal following pin-tract infection

J Orthop Res. 1999 Nov;17(6):947-52. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100170621.


We developed an ovine model of an external-fixator pin-tract infection. With use of a novel method of tissue sampling, infection of the medullary canal was confirmed in all (10 of 10) external-fixator pins that were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus after they were inserted. In addition, all (five of five) adjacent, uncontaminated pins became infected. We demonstrated that pin-tract infection can be difficult to diagnose clinically, despite gross infection of the tract, and that bacteria can spread within the medulla. Three of the infected pins (20%) did not appear clinically infected, were not loose, and were normal on radiographs after 1 week. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from the medulla around all 15 pin tracts, and nine other organisms were isolated from the tracts. Despite the presence of infection, the majority of the pins remained well fixed in the bone after 2 weeks.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Nails*
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation / adverse effects*
  • Fracture Fixation / instrumentation
  • Postoperative Complications / microbiology
  • Sheep
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*