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J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2011 Sep;20(6):928-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2011.02.018. Epub 2011 May 25.

Efficacy of preoperative home use of 2% chlorhexidine gluconate cloth before shoulder surgery.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.



Deep infection after shoulder surgery is a rare but devastating problem. This study tested the hypothesis that the home application of a 2% chlorhexidine gluconate cloth before shoulder surgery would be more efficacious than a standard shower of soap and water at decreasing the preoperative cutaneous levels of pathogenic bacteria on the shoulder.


This randomized, prospective study evaluated 100 consecutive patients undergoing shoulder surgery. Patients were randomly assigned to use 2% chlorhexidine gluconate-impregnated cloths (treatment group) or to shower with soap and water before surgery (control group). Cutaneous cultures were taken from the patients'shoulders in the preoperative holding area. Patients were monitored for 2 months postoperatively for clinical signs of infection.


In the treatment group vs the control group, the overall positive culture rate was 66% vs 94% (P = .0008), and the positive culture rate for coagulase-negative Staphylococcus was 30% vs 70% (P = .0001). The positive culture rate for Propionibacterium acnes was 46% in the treatment group vs 58% in the control group (P = .32). No infections occurred in any patients at a minimum of 2-months after surgery.


The use of the 2% chlorhexidine cloth was effective at decreasing overall bacterial culture rates before shoulder surgery and was particularly effective at decreasing the quantity of coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, a known causative agent of postoperative shoulder infections.


Use of chlorhexidine impregnated cloths prior to shoulder surgery may be a useful adjunct to presently used infection prevention strategies.


Copyright © 2011 Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Board of Trustees. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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