Antibiotic-loaded biomaterials (ALBs) have emerged as a potentially useful adjunctive antimicrobial measure for the prevention of infection in open fracture care. A biodegradable thermo-responsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) grafted hyaluronic acid (HApN) hydrogel loaded with gentamicin has recently been shown to prevent implant-related infection in a rabbit osteosynthesis model. The primary aim of this study was to determine the influence of this HApN hydrogel on bone healing at an early stage (4 weeks). A rabbit humeral osteotomy model with plating osteosynthesis was used to compare fracture healing in rabbits receiving the hydrogel as compared with control animals. The secondary aim was to observe fracture healing in groups treated with and without antibiotic-loaded hydrogel in the presence of bacterial contamination. In all groups, outcome measures were mechanical stability and histological score, with additional quantitative bacteriology in the inoculated groups. Application of the HApN hydrogel in non-inoculated rabbits did not significantly influence humeral stiffness or histological scores for fracture healing in comparison to controls. In the inoculated groups, animals receiving the bacterial inoculum without hydrogel were culture-positive at euthanasia and found to display lower humeral stiffness values and higher histopathological scores for bacterial presence in comparison with equivalents receiving the gentamicin-loaded HApN hydrogel, which were also infection-free. In summary, our data showed that HApN was an effective antibiotic carrier that did not affect fracture healing. This data supported its suitability for application in fracture care. Addition of osteopromotive compounds could provide further support for accelerating fracture healing in addition to successful infection prophylaxis.
- Biomaterial-associated infection
- Fracture healing
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Thermo-responsive hydrogel