Imaging Bacteria and Biofilms on Hardware and Periprosthetic Tissue in Orthopedic Infections

  • Laura Nistico
  • Luanne Hall-Stoodley
  • Paul StoodleyEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1147)


Infection is a major complication of total joint arthroplasty (TJA) surgery, and even though it is now as low as 1 % in some hospitals, the increasing number of primary surgeries translates to tens of thousands of revisions due to prosthetic joint infection (PJI). In many cases the only solution is revision surgery in which the hardware is removed. This process is extremely long and painful for patients and is a considerable financial burden for the health-care system. A significant proportion of the difficulties in diagnosis and treatment of PJI are associated with biofilm formation where bacteria attach to the surface of the prosthesis and periprosthetic tissue and build a 3-D biofilm community encased in an extracellular polymeric slime (EPS) matrix. Bacteria in biofilms have a low metabolic rate which is thought to be a major contributor to their recalcitrance to antibiotic treatment. The diagnosis of biofilm infections is difficult due to the fact that bacteria in biofilms are not readily cultured with standard clinical microbiology techniques. To identify and visualize in situ biofilm bacteria in orthopedic samples, we have developed protocols for the collection of samples in the operating room, for molecular fluorescent staining with 16S rRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and for imaging of samples using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Direct imaging is the only method which can definitively identify biofilms on implants and complements both culture and culture-independent diagnostic methods.

Key words

Orthopedic samples Hardware Prosthesis Tissues Membranes Biofilm Molecular fluorescent imaging FISH Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) 



We thank S. Conti, MD, G. Altman MD, D. Altman MD, and N. Sotereanos, MD, Orthopedic Department, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, for providing the samples; S. Kathju, MD, PhD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA and from the Center for Genomic Sciences, Allegheny-Singer Research Institute, Pittsburgh, PA; G.D. Ehrlich, PhD, C.J. Post, MD, PhD, and J.W. Costerton, PhD, for protocol development and provision of resources; and Mary O’Toole for her help in the preparation of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Nistico
    • 1
  • Luanne Hall-Stoodley
    • 2
    • 3
  • Paul Stoodley
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Genomic SciencesAllegheny-Singer Research InstitutePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Advanced Tribology, University of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Center for Microbial Interface Biology and Department of OrthopeadicsThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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