We reviewed 1085 consecutive compound limb fractures treated in 914 patients at the University of Louisville over a nine-year period. Of these fractures, 240 (group 1) received only systemic antibiotic prophylaxis and 845 (group 2) were managed by the supplementary local use of aminoglycoside-polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) beads. There were no significant differences in age, gender, fracture type, fracture location or follow-up between the two groups. All had copious wound irrigation, meticulous debridement and skeletal stabilisation, but wound management and the use of local antibiotic depended on the surgeon's individual preference and there was no randomisation. In group 1 there was an overall infection rate of 12% as against 3.7% in group 2 (p < 0.001). Both acute infection and local osteomyelitis showed a decreased incidence in group 2, but this was statistically significant only in Gustilo type-IIIB and type-IIIC fractures for acute infection, and only in type-II and type-IIIB fractures for chronic osteomyelitis. Our review suggests that the adjuvant use of local antibiotic-laden PMMA beads may reduce the incidence of infection in severe compound fractures.