Anne-Katrin Hickmann, Denis Bratelj, Tatiana Pirvu, Markus Loibl, Anne F. Mannion, Dave O’Riordan, Tamás Fekete, Deszö Jeszenszky, Nadia Eberhard, Marku Vogt, Yvonne Achermann, Daniel Haschtmann

February 2022, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 489 - 499 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06978-y

First Online: 30 October 2021

Management and outcome of spinal implant-associated surgical site infections in patients with posterior instrumentation: analysis of 176 cases


The management of implant-associated surgical site infections (SSI) in patients with posterior instrumentation is challenging. Evidence regarding the most appropriate treatment and the need for removal of implants is equivocal. We sought to evaluate the management and outcome of such patients at our institution.


We searched our prospectively documented databases for eligible patients with posterior spinal instrumentation, excluding the cervical spine (January 2008–June 2018). Patient files were reviewed, demographic data and treatment details were recorded. Patient-reported outcome (PRO) was assessed with the Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI) preoperatively and postoperatively at 3 and 12 months.


A total of 170 patients underwent 210 revisions for 176 SSIs. Two-thirds presented within four weeks (105/176, 59.7%, median 22.5d, 7d–11.1y). The most common pathogens were Staphylococcus aureus (n = 79/210, 37.6%) and Staphylococcus epidermidis (n = 56/210, 26.7%). Debridement and implant retention was performed in 135/210 (64.3%) revisions and partial replacement in 62/210 (29.5%). In 28/176 SSI (15.9%), persistent infection required multiple revisions (≤ 4). Surgery was followed by intravenous and oral antimicrobial treatment (10–12w). In 139/176 SSIs (79%) with ≥ 1y follow-up, infection was cured in 115/139 (82.7%); relapse occurred in 9 (relapse rate: 5.1%). Two patients (1.4%) died. COMI decreased significantly (8.2 ± 1.5 vs. 4.8 ± 2.9, p < 0.0001) over 12 months. 72.7% of patients were (very) satisfied with their care.


Patients with SSI after posterior (thoraco-)lumbo(-sacral) instrumentation can be successfully treated in most cases with surgical and specific antibiotic treatment. An interdisciplinary approach is recommended. Loose implants should be replaced. In some cases, multiple revisions may be necessary. Patient outcomes were satisfactory.

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