Surgical site infections (SSIs) are devastating; they worsen patient outcomes by adding new morbidities and increasing mortality risk, and add significant direct and indirect financial costs to facilities and patients.1 SSIs are among the most frequent hospital acquired infection.2 The most common microbial cause of SSIs in community hospitals is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).3 SSIs caused by MRSA are indicative of the larger trend of drug resistant pathogens causing SSIs, as one study found that 60% of infected surgical wounds contained microorganisms demonstrating antibiotic resistant patterns.4 Despite the above data, SSIs are considered largely preventable when following a holistic approach to infection control.5 The practice of pre-operative decolonization has been demonstrated to play a critical role in an overarching SSI prevention protocol.6


Bacteria have inhabited humans for millennia, such that each person carries a rich microflora containing trillions of microorganisms, almost all of which are beneficial or at least harmless. However, pathogenic microorganisms, such as S. aureus, can colonize a patient without causing any symptoms of an infection. Nonetheless, patients who are carriers of pathogenic bacteria are more likely to develop an SSI, since the bacteria are already present in the patient and can more easily migrate to the incision, causing an SSI.7

Pre-operative application of broad spectrum antiseptic agents can reduce the potential for a patient to develop an SSI.6 Moreover, since patients can be cocolonized – the state of multiple pathogenic bacteria colonizing a patient simultaneously – the application of a horizontal approach that kills numerous species of microorganisms can be beneficial. This preventative approach is also positioned well to counter the incidence of multi-drug resistant organism (MDRO) colonization, since antiseptic agents such as chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) and povidone-iodine (PVP-I) demonstrate antiseptic activity against several MDROs.6,8 As part of a holistic SSI reduction program, the application of broad-spectrum antiseptics can be applied to targeted areas that are most likely to be colonized.


Gram-positive organisms, such as S. aureus, frequently colonize the skin and nasal mucosal membranes.7 Historically, the antibacterial agent mupirocin has been the standard method of decolonizing the nares prior to surgery, but the possibility of resistance, along with barriers to patient compliance, have led to a search for alternative solutions; in that search, PVP-I antiseptic nasal swabs have emerged as a potential alternative. PVP-I demonstrates activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including MRSA,6 and does not appear likely to lead to resistance.9 Additionally, two studies report no difference in SSI rates when comparing mupirocin treated patients to those treated with PVP-I.10,11 Finally, data suggest that decolonization with PVP-I costs less than mupirocin treatment, and patients preferred nasal decolonization with PVP-I compared to mupirocin.11,12


CHG is likely the most widely used antiseptic in health care, largely due to its long history of use, broad-spectrum activity, and low incidence of adverse events.13 Preoperative decolonization protocols often include bioburden reduction of the skin with CHG bathing, especially at the surgical site, as it is well established that the skin is frequently colonized with numerous pathogenic bacteria. Indeed, pre-operative skin decolonization with CHG, often along with nasal decolonization, has been shown to significantly reduce SSIs.6 In addition to the skin and nares, the oral cavity harbors significant amounts of bacteria, and therefore represents a preoperative target for decolonization. Given the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity of CHG, use of a CHG oral rinse can reduce the bioburden in the oral cavity, thereby minimizing transmission of oral bacteria to the surgical site. Lastly there is little evidence to suggest CHG usage leads to resistance, providing an advantage over antibiotic prophylaxis.6


The implementation of a pre-operative bundle consisting of nasal decolonization with PVP-I swabs, oral decolonization with an oral CHG rinse, and skin decolonization with CHG bathing, has been associated with a significant reduction in SSIs.14 Moreover, the authors of this study report that compliance with the preoperative protocol was 100%.

Medline Industries, Inc. provides the necessary components to implement an evidence-based, preoperative decolonization protocol. Medline’s 2% CHG Skin Cleansing Kit provides four fluid ounces of a 2% CHG solution along with six dry wipes for application. In addition, Medline offers a Nasal & Oral Antiseptic Cleansing Kit containing four PVP-I antiseptic nasal swabs, and 0.51 fluid ounces of a 0.12% CHG oral rinse, complete with several devices allowing for multiple modes of administration. These products represent a convenient, yet multi-faceted, approach to preoperative decolonization in an effort to help prevent SSIs.

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