Topical rifampin powder for orthopaedic trauma part II: Topical rifampin allows for spontaneous bone healing in sterile and contaminated wounds

Stefanie M. Shiels, David J. Tennent, Alicia L. Lofgren, Joseph C. Wenke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infectious complications can reduce fracture healing rate. Broad spectrum antibiotics are commonly administered to prevent and treat musculoskeletal infections. Local antibiotics are applied to the wound site to increase therapeutic concentrations without increasing systemic toxicity, however, may hinder local tissue recovery. Rifampin has been shown to eradicate mature Staphylococcal biofilms and its use proven for treating musculoskeletal infections. In this study, a spontaneously healing defect model in a rat was used to investigate the impact rifampin powder has on endogenous bone healing in both a sterile and contaminated wound. No significant differences were identified in bone volume fraction via microcomputed tomography, radiological scoring, or histology between an empty defect and animals that received vancomycin or rifampin powder in a sterile wound. When applied to a contaminated musculoskeletal wound, the rifampin powder had significantly greater bone formation compared to the control, as measured by microcomputed tomography, plain radiology, and histology. In addition, the animals treated with rifampin powder had reduced bacteria, reduced white blood cell count and reduced number of clinical indications of infection. Interestingly, while the vancomycin group still displayed signs of infection via quantitative microbiology, plain radiology, and histology, there was significant bone formation within the defect and reduction of systemic signs of infection. We demonstrated that the use of rifampin powder allows bone to heal in both a sterile and contaminated model of musculoskeletal infection. To our knowledge, this is the first time the direct impact of local antibiotics on bone healing has been investigated. Published 2018. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. J Orthop Res 36:3142–3150, 2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3142-3150
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • bone Fracture
  • infection
  • repair/therapeutics
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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