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09 July 2009

Holey gloves ups infection

If patients aren't given antibiotics before surgery, holes and leaks in a surgeon's gloves can dramatically increase the risk of infection.

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If patients aren't given antibiotics before surgery, holes and leaks in a surgeon's gloves can dramatically increase the risk of infection, suggest the results of a study published in the Archives of Surgery.

Although gloves are thought to become perforated in as many as half of all operations, note Dr Walter R. Marti, from University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues in their report, the impact of glove perforation on the risk of infection was unknown.

When the researchers analysed 4,147 surgical procedures performed between 2000 and 2001 at University Hospital Basel, they found that gloves became perforated in about one in six procedures. There were 188 surgical site infections (4.5%), including 51 (7.5%) in procedures performed with perforated gloves and 137 (3.9%) in procedures where gloves remained intact.

"In interventions covered with antibiotics (in general, single shot), the surgical site infection rate was not significantly higher despite leaking gloves," Marti told Reuters Health.

More infection without antibiotics
However, among procedures in which antibiotics were not given prior to surgery, there were significantly more infections when a glove leaked, compared to when one did not leak, Marti noted: 12.7% vs. 2.9%.

Based on the results, Marti recommends that surgeons use double gloves, change gloves regularly before they start to leak - every two hours - and consider giving patients antibiotics even when it's not a standard part of the surgery.

He warns, however, that additional antibiotics could lead to drug reactions or increased antibiotic resistance among bacteria. - (Megan Rauscher/Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Archives of Surgery, June 2009.

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