Contamination and Healing

ImageAntibiotic prophylaxis of clean surgical procedures (e.g., elective operations on skin and soft tissue) is controversial based on a single randomized trial that showed benefit in breast and groin hernia surgery. The controversy persists because the incidence of superficial surgical site infection was so high (4%, versus an expected incidence of about 1%) in the placebo group. Evidence that antibiotic prophylaxis is indicated for soft tissue procedures of other types is lacking entirely, and prophylaxis cannot be recommended. If administered, antibiotic prophylaxis should be given before the skin incision is made, and only as a single dose. Additional doses are not beneficial because surgical hemostasis renders wound edges ischemic by definition until neovascularization occurs, and antibiotics cannot reach the edges of the incision for at least the first 24 hours. Not only is there lack of benefit, prolonged antibiotic prophylaxis actually increases the risk of postoperative infection. Increasingly in the practice of plastic surgery, there is a tendency to leave closed-suction drains in place for prolonged periods in the erroneous belief that the incidence of wound complications is reduced by prolonged drainage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Data indicate that the presence of a drain for more than 24 hours increases the risk of postoperative surgical site infection with MRSA. Closed suction drains must be removed as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours. Prolonged antibiotic prophylaxis is often administered to “cover” a drain left in place for a prolonged period. This is a prime example of error compounding error, and is a practice that must be abandoned.

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