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J Hosp Infect. 1992 Jul;21(3):179-91.

Cost-effectiveness analysis of the use of chlorhexidine detergent in preoperative whole-body disinfection in wound infection prophylaxis.

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  • 1Pharmacoeconomics Research Centre, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK.


A total of 3482 general surgical patients entered a trial in which they had a chlorhexidine or placebo detergent shower three times before elective clean wound or potentially contaminated surgery. Patients who showered with a chlorhexidine detergent (N = 1744) had a significant reduction in skin flora compared with those who showered with a placebo detergent (N = 1738). The majority of wound infections occurred outside hospital (312 outpatient infections vs. 201 inpatient infections). Wound infection rates were similar in the chlorhexidine and placebo groups (5.79% vs. 5.75% for inpatient infections and 8.54% vs. 9.38% for outpatient infections). The average hospital cost of both non-infected and infected patients was higher in the chlorhexidine group. The average cost of a non-infected chlorhexidine patient was 847.95 pounds as opposed to 804.60 pounds for a non-infected placebo patient, whilst the average cost of an infected patient was 1459.70 pounds (chlorhexidine) and 1414.22 pounds (placebo). A cross-match comparison of patients undergoing vascular surgery revealed no statistical significance in the difference between the two experimental groups. Patients were matched for age, sex, type of operation and surgeon. We conclude that preoperative whole-body disinfection with a chlorhexidine detergent is not a cost-effective treatment for reducing wound infection.

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