Ordinarily, people who are receiving new joints (such as hip implants) are placed on intravenous antibiotics before and after the operation. There might be a better method of reducing the chances of infection, however. A Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon has created time-release antibiotic beads that are implanted with the joint.

"There is a risk of infection with any surgery, but infections after a joint replacement surgery are harder to treat," says Dr. Terry Clyburn, who developed the technology. "The metal implants are not connected to the body's bloodstream, so the white blood cells sent to fight the infection cannot reach the implant and kill the bacteria."

That's where the microspheres come in.

As small as grains of salt, they're applied to the joint when it's implanted, and then proceed to release antibiotics right where they're needed most. They do so for up to six weeks – the post-operative period in which an infection is most likely to develop – after which they will have completely dissolved.

In lab tests, Clyburn and colleagues contaminated two metal implants with staphylococcus aureus bacteria. They then coated one of the implants in the microspheres, before inserting both of them in animal models. No infections occurred in the animal that received the treated implant.

Source: Houston Methodist