Influence of a standardized closed soft tissue trauma on resistance to local infection. An experimental study in rats

J Orthop Res. 2003 Mar;21(2):373-8. doi: 10.1016/S0736-0266(02)00149-3.


Purpose: The etiology of local posttraumatic infection in the locomotor system depends on the amount, virulence and pathogenicity of the inoculated microorganisms and the local/systemic host damage due to the type and extent of the accident or iatrogenic trauma. The relative effect of these factors remains unclear. In particular, it is still unclear today whether--in presence of microorganisms--soft tissue damage and its pathophysiological consequences lead to infection after soft tissue trauma, or whether the bacterial contamination is the primarily cause for posttraumatic infection. The aim of the project was to gain information on the consequences of a soft tissue injury in terms of resistance to local infection. Since clinical populations are too heterogeneous, the problem was investigated in a standardized, reduced (no surgery or implants) experimental in vivo model.

Method: In female Sprague-Dawley-rats with a standardized closed soft tissue trauma to the tibialis anterior muscle (group I: n=13) or without (group II: n=13), we compared the incidence of local infection after a pairwise local, percutaneously injected bacterial challenge with various concentrations of Staphylococcus aureus (2 x 10(4)-2 x 10(6) colony forming units, CFU). The standardized closed soft tissue trauma was created by application of a specially designed, computer controlled impact device. The contaminated soft tissue and the underlying bone were removed under sterile conditions after five days and quantitatively evaluated for bacterial growths. Infection was defined as positive bacterial growth at the soft tissue and/or bone. A stepwise experimental design with an "up-and-down" dosage technique was used to adjust the bacterial challenge in the area of the ID50 (50% infection dose). Statistical evaluation of the difference between the infection rates of both groups was performed by two-sided fisher exact test (p<0.05).

Results: The overall infection rate was 46%. For the group with soft tissue trauma the ID50 was 1.32 x 10(5) CFU and 1.05 x 10(6) CFU for the group without soft tissue trauma. The infection rate was 69% (9 of 13 animals) for the group with soft tissue trauma and 23% (3 of 13 animals) for the group without soft tissue trauma. This difference is statistically significant (p=0.047).

Conclusions: The infection rate after a standardized closed soft tissue injury was significantly higher and the ID50 lower than without soft tissue trauma. Our results demonstrate that in presence of microorganisms it is not primarily the bacterial contamination but rather the soft tissue damage and its pathophysiological consequences resulting in decreased infection resistance that secondarily lead to infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Hindlimb
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / microbiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Soft Tissue Infections / etiology*
  • Soft Tissue Infections / microbiology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / complications*
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Tibia / injuries
  • Tibia / microbiology