Determining potential of PMMA as a depot for rifampin to treat recalcitrant orthopaedic infections

Stefanie M. Shiels*, David J. Tennent, Kevin S. Akers, Joseph C. Wenke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background Open fractures are often complicated by infection. In cases of severe soft tissue and vascular injury, systemic antibiotics may be ineffective due to their inability to reach and provide direct antimicrobial activity to the zone of injury. High antibiotic concentrations within the wound can be achieved with reduced systemic toxicity by using local antibiotic delivery. As bacteria associated with musculoskeletal injuries frequently form biofilms, antibiotic selection is important. Herein, the use of rifampin, an antibiotic with activity against biofilms, delivered via polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) beads is evaluated for use in a traumatic musculoskeletal wound model. Methods PMMA beads loaded with rifampin, or combinations of rifampin and vancomycin, were prepared and evaluated for time to curing, drug release kinetics in vitro, and infection prevention in vivo using a well-established rat model of musculoskeletal infection. A segmental bone defect was created and contaminated with methicillin susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (UAMS-1). Wounds were debrided, irrigated, and treated with PMMA beads, containing rifampin or combinations of rifampin plus vancomycin, following a 6-h (early) or 24-h (delayed) treatment. After 14 days, tissue, implants, and beads were removed for bacterial quantification and assessed for rifampin resistance. Results There was a direct association between loaded concentration and release kinetics of the rifampin and vancomycin from PMMA beads. Higher rifampin concentrations delayed PMMA curing times. The addition of vancomycin to PMMA resulted in more rapid release of rifampin from beads. However, the highest concentration of rifampin loaded PMMA beads (10% wt/wt) was the only treatment to significantly reduce bacterial counts. No rifampin resistance was observed. Conclusion Although higher concentrations of rifampin resulted in significant reductions of bacteria, these levels extended PMMA curing times and transformed PMMA material characteristics. While these characteristics make the material unsuitable for weight-bearing applications, such as total joint arthroplasty, the use of rifampin-loaded PMMA beads may be an effective intervention in a contaminated traumatic extremity wound due to its ability to eradicate biofilms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2095-2100
Number of pages6
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Local antibiotic therapy
  • Musculoskeletal trauma
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Polymethylmethacrylate
  • Staphylococcus aureus


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