Vancomycin Powder Reduces Surgical Infection Rates in Diabetic Patients

Antibiotic is an inexpensive method for infection control after foot or ankle surgery, study says

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Nov. 11, 2015)
– High-risk diabetic patients facing foot or ankle surgery are less likely to develop surgical site infections when an antibiotic powder is used in their surgical wounds, according to new research from Foot & Ankle International (FAI). 

As a group, patients with diabetic complications such as neuropathy are at greater risk of surgical infection after foot or ankle surgery. The study, published in the September 2015 issue of FAI, looked at 162 diabetic patients having reconstructive surgery for a foot or ankle problem. Half of the patients received vancomycin powder in their surgical wounds and half did not. The patients were similar in age, gender, body mass index, short- and long-term control of blood sugar levels, length of surgery and the length of time they had diabetes. Post-surgical infection rates were documented.

The overall likelihood of a surgical site infection was decreased by 73 percent in patients who received the vancomycin in their surgical wounds. The rate of superficial infection was not significantly different between the two groups, but deep infections were 80 percent less likely in patients who received the vancomycin powder. The study also noted that vancomycin powder is associated with a low rate of complications and is inexpensive.

“Based on this study, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons may consider applying 500 mg to 1,000 mg of vancomycin powder before skin closure in diabetic patients who are not allergic to it,” says Dane K. Wukich, MD, lead investigator and chief of the orthopaedic foot and ankle division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Infections after foot or ankle surgery can be catastrophic and lead to major amputation, say study authors. If a major amputation could be avoided by using the powder in surgical wounds, the cost savings could be significant. The vancomycin powder for the study group cost $5 per patient, while the average 12-month cost for a diabetic patient undergoing a major amputation is approximately $49,000.

To read an abstract of the study “Topically Applied Vancomycin Powder Reduces the Rate of Surgical Site Infection in Diabetic Patients Undergoing Foot and Ankle Surgery,” visit the September FAI table of contents at The journal is published by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS).

About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​

About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle. 

Jennifer Hicks
Director of Public Education