Characterization of a chronic infection in an internally-stabilized segmental defect in the rat femur

Xinqian Chen, Dean T. Tsukayama, Louis S. Kidder, Craig A. Bourgeault, Andrew H Schmidt, William D. Lew

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49 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to characterize a new model of chronic osteomyelitis with clinically relevant features. A segmental defect of critical size was surgically created in the rat femur, stabilized with a polyacetyl plate and Kirschner wires, and contaminated with bacteria. The animals were allowed to recover while the contamination progressed to a chronic infection. At a later point in time, the defect was surgically débrided without removing the implant. Further treatments of interest, such as antibiotic therapy or application of an osteogenic agent, could be introduced at this time. To implement this model, an initial experiment was performed to determine the bacterial inoculum and time from contamination that would reliably result in an infected defect without causing excessive bone damage by the time débridement surgery was performed. The number of recovered bacteria, degree of radiographic bony lysis, and torsional stiffness of the defect fixation were measured in 192 rats as a function of 4 inocula of Staphylococcus aureus (103, 104, 105 or 106 CFUs) and 4 times from contamination (1, 2, 3 or 4 weeks). A 104 CFU inoculum over 2 weeks was found to consistently create an infection without severe lysis and loss of fixation stability. Based on these values, a second experiment was performed in 96 rats to characterize the débrided defect over time (2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after débridement), with and without 4 weeks of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, in terms of the same outcome variables. Infection was persistent in all animals in spite of débridement and antibiotic therapy. Antibiotic therapy did not reduce the degree of bony lysis. Compared with animals not given antibiotic, bacterial counts significantly decreased during the period of antibiotic therapy, but then rebounded to significantly higher levels at 12 weeks. This model allows us to perform further studies on differing regimens of antibiotic therapy and their relationship to surgical débridement, and on the efficacy of osteogenic agents in the presence of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)816-823
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Midwest Orthopaedic Research Foundation and Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation. The authors gratefully acknowledge Stryker Biotech (Hopkinton, MA, USA), for donating the collagen carrier, Roche Laboratories Inc (Nutley, NJ, USA), for donating the ceftriaxone, Douglas Cooper, for fabricating the fixation plates and test fixtures, and Barbara Wicklund, for her assistance with bacterial preparations and quantitative bacteriology.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Antibiotic
  • Bone lysis
  • Chronic osteomyelitis
  • Quantitative bacteriology
  • Segmental bone defect


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