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Spine Deform. 2017 Nov;5(6):396-400. doi: 10.1016/j.jspd.2017.04.005.

Postoperative Spine Dressing Changes Are Unnecessary.

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Northern California Regional Spine Center, Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, Oakland, CA 94611, USA. Electronic address:
Northern California Regional Spine Center, Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, Oakland, CA 94611, USA.



There is minimal literature regarding when dressing changes should be performed. We present the dressing change protocol adopted by our institution. The purpose of this study was to provide an update of our experience with this dressing change protocol over a 15-year period.


Effective January 2005, we implemented our universal protocol of no dressing changes for five days after surgery. Reviewing a health system administrative database, all spine surgery cases involving instrumentation performed at our institution were captured. Surgical site infection (SSI) cases: superficial, deep, and organ space as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were identified by reviewing an infection control database. Fisher exact test was used to compare SSI rates in all instrumented fusion cases from January 1999 to December 2004 (prior to implementation of the dressing change protocol) to those from January 2005 to December 2013 (after the protocol was initiated).


A total of 8,631 instrumented spine fusions were performed at a single institution from 1999 to 2013. Overall, after instituting our universal no-dressing-change protocol, SSI rates for all cervical, thoracic, and lumbar instrumented cases combined decreased from 3.9% (97/2473) to 0.93% (57/6158) (p < .0001). The reduction in SSI rates was most significant for posterior cervical and posterior lumbar surgeries. After our dressing change protocol was implemented, we saw an improvement in SSI rates for posterior cervical instrumented cases from 3.2% (6/186) to 0.50% (4/815) (p = .0041). Posterior lumbar instrumented fusion SSI rates dropped from 5.5% (65/1179) to 1.1% (32/2890) (p < .0001).


Dressing changes in the immediate postoperative period are not necessary. Applying a sterile dressing in the operating room may serve as a barrier to nosocomial pathogens during hospitalization. Our data suggest this dressing change protocol may lead to reduced SSI risk. Leaving the original postoperative surgical dressing intact is safe, simple, and cost-effective.


Adult spine deformity; Dressing change; Pediatric spine deformity; Surgical site infection

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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