Dressings for the prevention of surgical site infection

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Background: Surgical wounds (incisions) heal by primary intention when the wound edges are brought together and secured - often with sutures, staples, clips or glue. Wound dressings, usually applied after wound closure, provide physical support, protection from bacterial contamination and absorb exudate. Surgical site infection (SSI) is a common complication of surgical wounds that may delay healing. Objectives: To assess the effects of wound dressings for preventing SSI in people with surgical wounds healing by primary intention. Search methods: In February 2014 we searched: The Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register; The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library); The Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) (The Cochrane Library); The Health Technology Assessment Database (HTA) (The Cochrane Library); NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHSEED) (The Cochrane Library); Ovid MEDLINE; Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations); Ovid EMBASE and EBSCO CINAHL. There were no restrictions based on language or date of publication or study setting. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing alternative wound dressings or wound dressing with no dressing (wound exposure) for the postoperative management of surgical wounds healing by primary intention. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors performed study selection, risk of bias assessment and data extraction independently. Main results: Twenty RCTs were included (3623 participants). All trials were at unclear or high risk of bias. Twelve trials included people with wounds resulting from surgical procedures with a contamination classification of 'clean', two trials included people with wounds resulting from surgical procedures with a 'clean/contaminated' contamination classification and the remaining trials evaluated people with wounds resulting from various surgical procedures with different contamination classifications. Two trials compared wound dressings with leaving wounds exposed. The remaining 18 trials compared two alternative dressing types. No evidence was identified to suggest that any dressing significantly reduced the risk of developing an SSI compared with leaving wounds exposed or compared with alternative dressings in people who had surgical wounds healing by primary intention. Authors' conclusions: At present, there is insufficient evidence as to whether covering surgical wounds healing by primary intention with wound dressings reduces the risk of SSI or whether any particular wound dressing is more effective than others in reducing the rates of SSI, improving scarring, pain control, patient acceptability or ease of dressing removal. Most trials in this review were small and at high or unclear risk of bias. However, based on the current evidence, we conclude that decisions on wound dressing should be based on dressing costs and the symptom management properties offered by each dressing type e.g. exudate management.




Dumville, J. C., Gray, T. A., Walter, C. J., Sharp, C. A., & Page, T. (2014, September 1). Dressings for the prevention of surgical site infection. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003091.pub3

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