Rockford Spine Center study earns growing support

Online Staff Report

A new method created and tested in Rockford for lowering post-operation infections in spine surgery patients is getting the attention of surgeons across the country.

The spine surgeons at Rockford Spine Center concluded a 10-year study in 2011, and the overwhelmingly positive results were published in the medical journal Spine. Now, two years later, other surgeons are adopting the method and launching their own confirmation studies.

Fred A. Sweet, M.D., Michael Roh, M.D., and Christopher Sliva, M.D. — fellowship-trained spine surgeons and partners of Rockford Spine Center — use the new technique of applying the antibiotic Vancomycin in patients undergoing complex spinal surgery to reduce the risk of infection. It is used in about 80 percent of the surgeries performed, which equates to about 500 surgeries a year for RSC.

Vancomycin is typically given through an intravenous route. The surgeons at Rockford Spine Center have demonstrated that placing a powder version of the drug directly into the wound is more effective at reducing infection rates. In fact, the rate was lowered from a national average of 2.4 percent to 0.2 percent.

It is quite an honor that other surgeons are testing our method,” said Dr. Sweet. “We are continually looking for ways to improve the safety and outcome of surgical procedures for our patients, and we are pleased the benefits of this method will reach beyond Rockford and impact so many more patients.”

The benefit of placing the Vancomycin powder in the wound is that it is a higher concentration where bacteria can potentially cause harm. It does not speed up the recovery, but it significantly reduces the infection rate, which is critical in the recovery process. The surgeons note that prevention is essential because once an infection sets in, there are very few antibiotics that are strong enough for treatment.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” noted Dr. Sliva. “Just by changing the way in which we administer this antibiotic, we have managed to help our patients — and now many others — avoid serious infections that would severely impact the recovery process.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery resulted in no infections for a group of patients that were given the powder version of the Vancomycin drug following surgery. The study’s authors concluded, “To our knowledge, this is the first description of a technique for significantly decreasing postoperative cervical spine infections.”

Additionally, an article in the February edition of Orthopedics titled “Vancomycin Prophylaxis of Surgical Site Infection in Clean Orthopedic Surgery” suggests this method is gaining momentum among orthopedic surgeons. The article’s author states, “Pilot data from an informal survey performed of major spine centers suggests that this method is becoming the standard of care in the spine community.”

We are proud to have made what we believe is a significant contribution to our field of medicine,” said Dr. Roh. “This truly is about patient safety and ensuring our patients are back to living a healthy and active lifestyle as soon as possible.”

Rockford Spine Center

Celebrating 10 years of service in 2013, Rockford Spine Center is the only facility in northwestern Illinois dedicated exclusively to spinal care. The facility has the combined expertise of three fellowship-trained spine surgeons and a Mayo Clinic-trained physiatrist.

Rockford Spine Center’s team of experts uses a multidisciplinary approach to treat spinal disorders, ranging from simple to the most complex cases. The team has an advanced understanding of the spine and specializes in both surgical and non-surgical spinal disorders. Rockford Spine Center has earned national recognition in Newsweek, is ranked among the Top 50 Spine Surgery Practices to Know in Becker’s Spine Review and earned the Patients’ Choice Award in 2011 and 2012.

For more about Rockford Spine Center, 2902 McFarland Road, No. 300, Rockford visit the company’s website at or call (815) 316-2100.

Posted May 1, 2013

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