Association between post-craniotomy Propionibacterium acnes infection and dural implants: a case–control study

C. McKerr*, N. Coetzee, Obaghe Edeghere, S. Suleman, Neville Verlander, K. Banavathi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background In 2011, 15 deep-seated Propionibacterium acnes infections were identified in patients following craniotomies in a hospital in the UK. Aim To describe the outbreak and report findings from the investigation undertaken in order to identify the source and risk factors and inform control measures. Methods Data were obtained from hospital clinical records and included patient and surgical variables. Cases were defined as patients with microbiologically confirmed deep or organ space surgical site infection (SSI) caused by P. acnes following craniotomy undertaken in 2011. Four controls per case were randomly selected from patients who had a craniotomy in 2011 but who did not develop any SSI. The relationship between infection and putative exposures was examined using multivariate regression techniques. Infection prevention procedures and the theatre environment were reviewed to assess compliance with existing standards. Findings Fifteen cases and 65 controls were recruited. Odds of infection were higher for those who had a dural implant inserted during their operation [adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 14.6; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.95–∞] and for those who had alcohol/Betadine®/chlorhexidine mix as a disinfectant (aOR: 7.9; 95% CI: 0.8–∞). Environmental investigations suggested that theatre ventilation systems delivered air exchange rates below the recommended standard. Conclusion There was a positive association between using dural implants and P. acnes infection. Infection may have been facilitated by inefficient use of skin disinfectant and environmental factors. Recommendations included ongoing surveillance, the use of chlorhexidine skin disinfectant, ensuring adequate air exchanges and appropriate use of doors in theatre to minimize air turbulence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-396
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank R. Price, E. Philips, S. Ventress, J. Sage, L. Rix, N. Bowden and all the surgical team at University Hospital of North Midlands. Thanks to Dr N. Inglis, Warwickshire County Council/Coventry City Council, for significant contribution to the study. Thanks to Dr K.G. Pollock, Health Protection Scotland, for comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Healthcare Infection Society


  • Case–control study
  • Craniotomy
  • Healthcare-associated infections
  • Nosocomial
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Surgical site infection


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