Bacterial Skin Contamination After Surgical Preparation in Foot and Ankle Surgery

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An effective presurgical preparation is an important step in limiting surgical wound contamination and preventing infection. The purpose of this study was to evaluate residual bacterial skin contamination after surgical skin preparation in foot and ankle surgery to determine if current techniques are satisfactory in eliminating harmful pathogens. Fifty consecutive patients having surgical procedures of the foot and ankle were studied. Each lower extremity was prepared randomly with either a one-step povidone-iodine topical gel or a two-step iodophor scrub followed by a povidone-iodine paint. After preparation and draping, cultures were obtained at three locations: the hallux nailfold, web space between the second and third, and fourth and fifth toes, and the anterior ankle (control). In the gel group, positive cultures were obtained from 76% of halluces, 68% of toes, and 16% of controls. In the scrub and paint group, positive cultures were obtained from 84% of halluces, 76% of toes, and 28% of controls. Numerous pathogens were cultured, with Staphylococcus epidermidis being the most prevalent. Based on the findings of the current study, presurgical skin preparation with a povidone-iodine based topical bactericidal agent is not sufficient in eliminating pathogens in foot and ankle surgery. The unique environment of the foot and its resident organisms may play a role in the higher infection rates associated with surgery of the foot and ankle.

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