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Br J Surg. 2006 Nov;93(11):1335-41.

Meta-analysis of preoperative antiseptic bathing in the prevention of surgical site infection.

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Centre for Clinical Nursing, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Australia.



Preoperative bathing with an antiseptic solution is widely used to prevent surgical site infection, but trial results are conflicting.


Trials were identified by searches of Medline, Embase and the Cochrane controlled trials register. Studies were eligible if they compared an antiseptic solution used in preoperative bathing with a non-antiseptic washing agent or with no bathing and if they reported data on surgical site infection.


Six trials with a total of 10 007 patients were included; all of them used 4 per cent chlorhexidine gluconate. Three trials with 7691 patients compared chlorhexidine with placebo. Bathing with chlorhexidine did not reduce surgical site infection rate; the relative risk (RR) was 0.91. Including only trials of high quality, the RR was 0.95. Three trials with 1443 patients compared bar soap with chlorhexidine; no differences in the surgical site infection rates were detected, and the RR was 1.02. Two trials of 1092 patients compared bathing with chlorhexidine with no washing. The surgical site wound infection rate in the two groups was similar, and the RR was 0.70.


The evidence does not support preoperative bathing with chlorhexidine as a means of reducing surgical site wound infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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