Does an antibiotic nail made in a lubricated tube release antibiotic?

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The treatment of long-bone osteomyelitis has long been a difficult problem. Recently, antibiotic-impregnated intramedullary rods for the treatment of infected long-bone fractures have been gaining popularity but they are quite difficult to fabricate. Recently, a new technique that utilizes mineral oil to coat the inside of a chest tube mold prior to introduction of cement has been proven to ease fabrication. We hypothesized that the use of mineral oil would alter the elution characteristics of tobramycin from the intramedullary device.


Two groups of antibiotic nails were fabricated under sterile conditions. The control group utilized a chest tube mold. The study group utilized a chest tube that was coated with mineral oil prior to cement injection. Each intramedullary nail was placed in pooled human serum and incubated under physiologic conditions. The level of tobramycin in each sample was measured at timepoints 0, 1, 6, and 24 h.


There was no significant difference when comparing control with the experimental group at any timepoint. Antibiotic nails eluted tobramycin at a rapid rate in the first 6 h of exposure to serum, regardless of their preparation with oil or without oil. The rate of elution fell precipitously between 6 and 24 h.


We believe that although this study, as with any study, cannot perfectly recreate in vivo conditions, we have clearly shown that mineral oil has no significant effect on elution of tobramycin from antibiotic nails.

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This project was made possible with funding from the Fischer-Owen Resident Research Fund at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Louisville.

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Correspondence to Jonathon R. Lindner.

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Lindner, J.R., Seligson, D., Chisena, E. et al. Does an antibiotic nail made in a lubricated tube release antibiotic?. Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol 30, 153–156 (2020).

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  • Antibiotic intramedullary nail
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Long bone infection
  • Open fracture
  • Long bone osteomyelitis