We examined the effects of vancomycin on the compressive strength and fatigue life of bone cement and the pharmacokinetics and antimicrobial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus of vancomycin eluted from bone cement, both alone and in combination with tobramycin. Two cements, Palacos and Simplex, were tested. Three antibiotic preparations were tested: lyophilized vancomycin (vancomycin-L), vancomycin powder (vancomycin-P), and tobramycin powder (Lilly, Indianapolis, IN). Although antibiotics did not significantly affect compressive strength, the fatigue life of bone cement was significantly decreased with vancomycin. Thus, fatigue testing revealed effects on cement strength not apparent by compression testing. Vancomycin-P had a substantially less detrimental effect on fatigue strength than vancomycin-L. Vancomycin-P elutes less efficiently than tobramycin. Although relatively little vancomycin-P eluted from bone cement, it retained biologic activity.