Extended Oral Antibiotics May Cut PJI Risk When Risk Factors Aren’t Modifiable

Periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs) create a significant burden for patients, surgeons, and healthcare systems. That is why so much research has gone into how best to optimize certain patients preoperatively—such as those with obesity, diabetes, or kidney disease—to decrease the risk of these potentially catastrophic complications. Still, it is not always possible or feasible to optimize every “high-risk” patient who would benefit from a total hip or knee replacement, and therefore many such patients undergo surgery with an increased risk of infection. In such cases, surgeons need additional strategies to decrease PJI risk.

In the December 19, 2018  issue of JBJS, Inabathula et al. investigate whether providing high-risk total joint arthroplasty (TJA) patients with extended postoperative oral antibiotics decreased the risk of PJI within the first 90 days after surgery. In their retrospective cohort study, the authors examined >2,100 total hip and knee replacements performed at a single suburban academic hospital. The patients in 68% of these cases had at least one risk factor for infection. Among those high-risk patients, about half received 7 days of an oral postoperative antibiotic, while the others received only the standard 24 hours of postoperative intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

Relative to those who received IV antibiotics only, those who received extended oral antibiotics experienced an 81% reduction in infection for total knee arthroplasties and a 74% reduction in infection for total hip arthroplasties. I was stunned by such large reductions in infection rates obtained simply by adding an oral antibiotic twice a day for 7 days. Most arthroplasty surgeons go to great lengths to decrease the risk of joint infection by percentages much less than that.

While further investigations are needed and legitimate concerns exist regarding the propagation of antimicrobial-resistant organisms from medical antibiotic misuse, these data are very exciting.  I agree with Monti Khatod, MD, who, in his commentary on this study, says that “care pathways that aim to improve modifiable risk factors should not be seen as obsolete based on the findings of this paper.” Furthermore, the study itself is at risk for treatment and selection biases that could greatly influence its outcomes. Nevertheless, getting a successful result in these patients is challenging and, if validated with further data, this research may help surgeons obtain better outcomes when treating high-risk patients in need of hip or knee replacements.

Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

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