Special collar to reduce infection rates in broken bone pins

Jennie Walker at the Division of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery at NUH’s Queen’s Medical Centre has been awarded an allied health professional training fellowship of almost £160,000 from Arthritis Research UK to develop an anti-microbial collar to prevent bacterial infections associated with broken bones. Co-workers are Professor Brigitte Scammell and Dr Roger Bayston.

Fractures are often treated by the insertion of external fixation: metal pins and inserted into the bone though the skin and attached to a metal frame. However, up to 40% of patients being treated in this way develop infections, varying in severity to minor redness of the skin, to septicaemia.

Dr Bayston has already developed a similar device which is now commercially produced and has been used in more than 260,000 patients. The device reduces infections in shunts used in people with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and in catheters in people with severe kidney failure.

Jennie Walker said: “We plan to use this same technology to design and test an antibiotic-impregnated collar which can be fitted to the skin surface for use in pinning broken bones. We need to carry out further research to perfect the collar.”

The Nottingham team will carry out a pilot study to determine its usefulness in patients at the QMC. “As the antimicrobial agents that we will use are already in clinical use we don’t expect to encounter any problem with side-effects,” added Ms Walker.

The researchers also want to find out which bacteria are most commonly associated with pin site infections and whether there are some patient groups who are at particularly high risk of infection. They believe the device could also reduce NHS costs by avoiding the complications associated with infections.