Local Application of a Gentamicin-Loaded Hydrogel Early After Injury Is Superior to Perioperative Systemic Prophylaxis in a Rabbit Open Fracture Model

J Orthop Trauma. 2020 May;34(5):231-237. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0000000000001707.


Objectives: Open fractures are at significant risk of developing a fracture-related infection, despite the routine administration of perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis. Early application of antibiotic prophylaxis is known to reduce infection rates; however, most international guidelines focus on postoperative duration rather than prehospital administration. We compared conventional perioperative prophylaxis against early prehospital prophylaxis either as a systemic single shot of cefuroxime or a locally applied gentamicin-loaded hydrogel in a laboratory animal model.

Methods: Thirty New Zealand white rabbits underwent a first surgical procedure to create an open wound, bone damage and contamination with Staphylococcus aureus. After a 4-hour observation period mimicking the time-to-treatment, the animals underwent a second procedure to irrigate the wound and apply a fracture fixation device. The 5 groups (n = 6 per group) received (1) no treatment; (2) conventional 24-hour cefuroxime; (3) an early single shot of cefuroxime 15 minutes after trauma; (4) a combined early and standard systemic prophylaxis; and (5) early application of a gentamicin-loaded hydrogel that was removed during irrigation.

Results: Untreated animals displayed high numbers of bacteria in irrigation fluid and were all highly culture positive at euthanasia. Three of 6 animals were culture positive at euthanasia after conventional prophylaxis. Early systemic prophylaxis reduced bacterial burden in irrigation fluid by up to 100-fold, but 5/6 animals were culture positive at euthanasia. The combined prophylaxis displayed greater efficacy with only 1/6 rabbits culture positive at euthanasia. Local application of the gentamicin-loaded hydrogel reduced bacteria recovered by irrigation to just above our detection limit, and at euthanasia, all animals were culture negative at euthanasia.

Conclusions: Early systemic antibiotic administration can significantly reduce bacterial burden in the operative field and reduce culture positivity at euthanasia when continued for 24 hours after injury. The early application of a gentamicin-loaded hydrogel that was removed during irrigation displayed superior efficacy to early systemic therapy alone and postoperative conventional gold standard 24-hour systemic therapy alone. These experimental results highlight the importance of early antibiotic administration in fracture care.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis
  • Cefuroxime
  • Fractures, Open* / surgery
  • Gentamicins*
  • Hydrogels
  • Rabbits
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gentamicins
  • Hydrogels
  • Cefuroxime