Evidently Advent Day 1: best health evidence wrapped up for the festive season!

What’s going on in the operating theatre?


Those working in operating theatres do some simple things designed to reduce the likelihood of the patient getting an infection of their surgical wound. Patients may be asked to do things too, by showering with an antiseptic beforehand, for example. Do they work? Here’s the evidence from Cochrane reviews:

  • It is unclear whether wearing surgical face masks by members of the surgical team has any impact on surgical wound infection rates in people having ‘clean’ surgery
  • There was no evidence that plastic adhesive drapes reduce surgical site infection rates, and some evidence that they increase infection rates
  • There is no clear evidence (from 7 trials with over 10,000 people) that showering or bathing before surgery with the antiseptic chlorhexidine is better than other wash products for reducing surgical site infections
  • It’s unclear whether one sort of antiseptic solution for scrubbing hands before surgery is better than another
  • No trials have investigated whether wearing nail polish or finger rings affects the rate of surgical wound infection
  • Evidence from one study suggested that preparing the skin before surgery with 0.5% chlorhexidine in methylated spirits led to a reduced risk of surgical site infection compared with an alcohol based povidone iodine solution, but it is important to note that the trial does not report important details, such as the concentration of povidone iodine paint used, and of how the trial was done, so we can’t be confident about the findings

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Lipp A, Edwards P. Disposable surgical face masks for preventing surgical wound infection in clean surgery. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD002929. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002929.pub2.

Webster J, Alghamdi A. Use of plastic adhesive drapes during surgery for preventing surgical site infection. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD006353. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006353.pub3.

Webster J, Osborne S. Preoperative bathing or showering with skin antiseptics to prevent surgical site infection. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD004985. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004985.pub4.

Tanner J, Swarbrook S, Stuart J. Surgical hand antisepsis to reduce surgical site infection. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004288. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004288.pub2.

Arrowsmith VA, Taylor R. Removal of nail polish and finger rings to prevent surgical infection. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD003325. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003325.pub3.

Dumville JC, McFarlane E, Edwards P, Lipp A, Holmes A. Preoperative skin antiseptics for preventing surgical wound infections after clean surgery. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD003949. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003949.pub3.

Joss Millward

About Joss Millward

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Hi I'm Joss, I'm 14 and go to The Cherwell School in Oxford. I really like science and enjoy making lego animations. Outside of school I play the trumpet and love messing around with my brother and sisters!

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