Continuation of TNF blockade in patients with inflammatory rheumatic disease. An observational study on surgical site infections in 1,596 elective orthopedic and hand surgery procedures

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BACKGROUND: Increased infection risk in inflammatory rheumatic diseases may be due to inflammation or immunosuppressive treatment. The influence of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors on the risk of developing surgical site infections (SSIs) is not fully known. We compared the incidence of SSI after elective orthopedic surgery or hand surgery in patients with a rheumatic disease when TNF inhibitors were continued or discontinued perioperatively.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We included 1,551 patients admitted for elective orthopedic surgery or hand surgery between January 1, 2003 and September 30, 2009. Patient demographic data, previous and current treatment, and factors related to disease severity were collected. Surgical procedures were grouped as hand surgery, foot surgery, implant-related surgery, and other surgery. Infections were recorded and defined according to the 1992 Centers for Disease Control definitions for SSI. In 2003-2005, TNF inhibitors were discontinued perioperatively (group A) but not during 2006-2009 (group B).

RESULTS: In group A, there were 28 cases of infection in 870 procedures (3.2%) and in group B, there were 35 infections in 681 procedures (5.1%) (p = < 0.05). Only foot surgery had significantly more SSIs in group B, with very low rates in group A. In multivariable analysis with groups A and B merged, only age was predictive of SSI in a statistically significant manner.

INTERPRETATION: Overall, the SSI rates were higher after abolishing the discontinuation of anti-TNF perioperatively, possibly due to unusually low rates in the comparator group. None of the medical treatments analyzed, e.g. methotrexate or TNF inhibitors, were significant risk factors for SSI. Continuation of TNF blockade perioperatively remains a routine at our center.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
  • Surgery


  • Antirheumatic Agents, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Elective Surgical Procedures, Female, Hand, Humans, Incidence, Male, Methotrexate, Middle Aged, Surgical Wound Infection, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Observational Study
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-501
Number of pages7
JournalActa Orthopaedica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Oct
Publication categoryResearch

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