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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2011 Jun;12(6):1017-21. doi: 10.1510/icvts.2010.259796. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Should surgeons scrub with chlorhexidine or iodine prior to surgery?

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, The London Chest Hospital, Bonner Road, London E2 9JX, UK.


A best evidence topic was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether chlorhexidine gluconate is equivalent or superior to the use of povidone-iodine during surgical hand scrub. A total of 593 papers were found using the reported searches of which eight represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, date, journal, study type, population, main outcome measures and results are tabulated. We conclude that whilst both chlorhexidine and povidone-iodine reduce bacterial count after scrubbing, the effect of chlorhexidine is both more profound and longer lasting. The studies found analysed the difference in reduction in colony forming units or bacterial count following surgical scrub in order to conclude that chlorhexidine was superior. Four studies went further to analyse cumulative and residual activity by testing for bacterial reduction after using a scrub solution for a number of days, an area in which chlorhexidine showed consistent advantages over povidone-iodine. These findings are given more credibility by the clinical finding of a recent meta-analysis of over 5000 patients in which chlorhexidine as an antiseptic skin preparation was associated with significantly reduced surgical site infection (SSI) in clean-contaminated surgery. Despite this, there is no evidence suggesting the use of chlorhexidine during hand scrub reduces SSI, which perhaps explains why guidelines from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association for Perioperative Practice do not recommend one specific antimicrobial over another for hand scrub.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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