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Can J Surg. 1981 Nov;24(6):561-6.

Antibiotic prophylaxis in surgery.


This review examines the principles and practice of antibiotic prophylaxis in surgery. Such prophylaxis is required to decrease the frequency of postoperative infection in most patients with clean-contaminated and contaminated wounds, to prevent infrequent but devastating infection of prostheses in cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery and to prevent endocarditis in noncardiac surgery in patients who have valvular heart disease. Prophylaxis should begin before operation; it is usually unnecessary afterwards. The antibiotic may be given topically or parenterally. The latter is more certain, but oral prophylaxis in bowel surgery may offer additional protection by reducing colonic flora, and topical wound and peritoneal antibiotics may be augment protective antibiotic levels at those sites. Antibiotics, such as the cephalosporin cefazolin (but not cephalothin), which penetrate blood and tissues rapidly and for prolonged periods, afford excellent prophylaxis at most sites. But for prophylaxis in colonic surgery, antibiotics directed against Bacteroides fragilis may be superior, and to prevent endocarditis in noncardiac surgery, vancomycin or a combination of penicillin and an aminoglycoside is best.

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