Background: Antibiotic use in polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers has historically been limited to those which are "heat-stable" and thus retain their antimicrobial properties after exposure to the high temperatures which occur during PMMA curing.
Methods: This study examines the requirement of "heat stability" by measuring temperatures of Palacos and Simplex PMMA as they cure inside commercial silicone molds of the distal femur and proximal tibia. Temperature probes attached to thermocouples were placed at various depths inside the molds and temperatures were recorded for 20 minutes after PMMA introduced and a temperature curve for each PMMA product was determined. A "heat-stable" antibiotic, vancomycin, and a "heat-sensitive" antibiotic, ceftazidime, were placed in a programmable thermocycler and exposed to the same profile of PMMA curing temperatures. Antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus was compared for heat-treated antibiotics vs room temperature controls.
Results: Peak PMMA temperatures were significantly higher in tibial (115.2°C) vs femoral (85.1°C; P < .001) spacers. In the hottest spacers, temperatures exceeded 100°C for 3 minutes. Simplex PMMA produced significantly higher temperatures (P < .05) compared with Palacos. Vancomycin bioactivity did not change against S aureus with heat exposure. Ceftazidime bioactivity did not change when exposed to femoral temperature profiles and was reduced only 2-fold with tibial profiles.
Conclusion: The curing temperatures of PMMA in knee spacers are not high enough or maintained long enough to significantly affect the antimicrobial efficacy of ceftazidime, a known "heat-sensitive" antibiotic. Future studies should investigate if more "heat-sensitive" antibiotics could be used clinically in PMMA spacers.
Keywords: antibiotic cement spacer; antibiotic thermal stability; ceftazidime; periprosthetic joint infection; two-stage revision; vancomycin.
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