AIM: Evaluation of the delivery of gentamicin and vancomycin from polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers before and after implantation for the treatment of total hip replacement infections. METHODS: Twenty industrially produced spacers containing gentamicin (1.9%) were utilized. Vancomycin (2.5%) mixed with PMMA cement was used to fill holes drilled in the cement of 14 of the 20 spacers immediately before implantation. The spacers were removed from 20 patients 3-6 months after implantation and then immersed in phosphate buffer at 37 degrees C for 10 days. Antibiotic concentrations were determined by fluorescence polarization immunoassay. RESULTS: Gentamicin and vancomycin were still present in all the spacers removed from the patients. The release of gentamicin alone and in combination with vancomycin was in the range 0.05%-0.4% of the initial amount present, whereas the release of vancomycin was in the range 0.8%-3.3%. The release kinetics showed a similar pattern for both drugs. After a high initial release of drug, a reduced, but constant, elution was observed over the next few days. CONCLUSIONS: The delivery of gentamicin and vancomycin from PMMA cement was high initially, with sustained release over several months. Incorporation of vancomycin into the surface of the spacers permitted spacers to be prepared with multiple antibiotics present and without adversely affecting the release kinetics of the agents. The gentamicin-vancomycin combination shows potential for the treatment of infection following total hip replacement in specific patients.
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