Due to medical and organizational factors, it occurs in everyday practice that spacers are left in place longer than originally planned during a two-stage prosthesis exchange in the case of prosthetic joint infections. Patients are severely restricted in their mobility and, after initial antibiotic administration, the spacer itself only acts as a foreign body. The aim of this study is to analyze whether the duration of the spacer in situ has an influence on the long-term success of treatment and mortality.
We retrospectively studied all 204 two-stage prosthesis replacements of the hip and knee from 2012 to 2016 with a minimum follow-up of two years at an arthroplasty center with 3 main surgeons. The duration of the spacer interval was divided into two groups. Patients replanted within ten weeks (as is standard in multiple algorithms) after systemic antibiotic treatment were assigned to the ‘Regular Spacer Interval (< 70 days)’ group. If the spacer interval was longer, they were assigned to the ‘Long Spacer Interval (≥ 70 days)’ group.
Patients were on average 67.69 years old (SD 12.3). The mean duration of the spacer-interval was 100.9 days (range: 423.0; SD, 60.0). In 62 patients reimplantation could be performed within 70 days after explantation, in 142 patients this took longer (max. 438 days). In 26 patients, the spacer had to be changed at least once during this period (11 patients in the hip group, and 15 patients in the knee group). In the remaining cases, other medical or organizational reasons delayed replantation. Both groups were comparable concerning Charlson Comorbity Index, age, number of previous surgeries and laboratory infection markers. There was no statistically significant influence of the duration of the spacer interval on the infection free survival (n=204, p=0.32). There was also no influence on mortality (n=204, p=0.35) and aseptic implant failure (n=204, p=0.15).
The timely replantation of a knee or hip prosthesis seems to be reasonable in general because the patients are strongly limited in their mobility and daily activities by the spacer. However, there does not seem to be a negative influence on infection eradication and survival due to a long spacer interval.