This simple change could cut surgical infection risk in half

Switching the type of antiseptic used during a procedure may significantly reduce surgical infection risk, according to a study published in Annals of Surgery.

Researchers from the University of Leeds in England and the University of Bern in Switzerland reviewed 17 existing studies to assess the efficacy of five antiseptics used in 14,593 surgeries. The original studies were conducted in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia and neighboring islands, and included a broad range of surgeries on adults. 

Researchers found alcoholic chlorhexidine gluconate cut the risk of surgical infection in half for "clean" surgeries compared to the more commonly used antiseptic, povidone-iodine. Clean surgeries are defined as those outside the respiratory, urogenital and digestive system in which there are no signs of inflammation or infection and sterile technique is maintained the whole time.

"Even though the risk of infection in these types of surgery is low (about 3 percent), anything we can change to reduce this risk is very important," lead author Dr. Ryckie Wade, a clinical research fellow at Leeds' School of Medicine, said in a news release. "Our findings suggest that the number of infections may be halved if surgeons used a different skin cleaning agent before surgery."

To view the full study, click here.

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