INTRODUCTION: Use of the Bair Hugger forced-air patient warming system during prolonged abdominal vascular surgery may lead to increased bacterial contamination of the surgical field by mobilization of the patient's skin flora. METHODS: This possibility was studied by analyzing bacterial content in air and wound specimens collected during surgery in 16 patients undergoing abdominal vascular prosthetic graft insertion procedure, using the Bair Hugger patient warming system. The bacterial colony counts from the beginning and the end of surgery were compared, and the data analyzed using the Wilcoxon matched pairs test. RESULTS: The results showed not only that there was no increase in bacterial counts at the study sites, but also that there was a decrease (P < 0.01) in air bacterial content around the patient and in the operating theatre after prolonged use of the patient warmer. No wound or graft infections occurred. CONCLUSION: The use of this warming system does not lead to increased bacterial contamination of the operating theatre atmosphere, and it is unlikely to affect the surgical field adversely.
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