Silver Coatings in Reconstructive Orthopaedics: Basic Science and Clinical Rationale

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Surg Technol Int. 2021 Nov 23;39:sti39/1500. Online ahead of print.


Prosthetic joint infection (PJI) is one of the most devastating complications that can occur following total hip and total knee arthroplasty. Despite the remarkable advances that have been made in surgical techniques and implant technology, the incidence of PJI has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades. One approach that has been described in the literature to minimize the risk of PJI has been the use of silver-coated prostheses. Silver has been reported to have antimicrobial properties when added to a variety of orthopaedic materials including bone cement, hydroxyapatite coatings and wound dressings. Silver is also being increasingly used as a surface coating for endoprostheses used for reconstruction around the hip and the knee with the specific aim of reducing the incidence of prosthetic joint infection. Despite the increasing adoption of this technology, the use of silver coatings remains controversial. The optimal method for preparation and the thickness of the coating, as well as the mechanism(s) of action in reducing the incidence of PJI, are unclear. The issue of silver toxicity is also an important consideration. This paper provides an overview of the use of silver coatings in reconstructive orthopaedics, as well as the types available and techniques used to coat endoprostheses. We also review the basic science as well as the clinical applications of silver coatings in the prevention of PJIs.