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Preoperative bathing with soap significantly reduces surgical site infections (SSIs) in paediatric surgical patients, reveal researchers from Oxford University Global Surgery Group (OUGSG), Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science, and Muhimbili National Hospital.

Visual abstract showing results and conclusion of the study with the heading 'Pre-operative bathing with soap reduces surgical site infection in children'.

SSIs are common and serious complications of surgery. Guidelines on preventing SSIs have been developed, but the role of preoperative bathing with plain soap among paediatric population is unclear. The team aimed to assess the effectiveness of pre-operative bathing using plain soap in preventing SSIs among paediatric surgical patients.

A randomised trial was conducted at Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania. The study found that in the control arm, 40.6% of participants developed SSIs compared to 11.4% in the intervention arm. After adjusting for confounding factors, the intervention reduced the odds of an SSI by 80%.

Younger age, lower weight, no pre-operative antibiotics and increased length of surgery were also found to be risk factors for SSIs.

Study take-aways

  • Intervention chosen was simple and cheap: pre-operative washing using plain soap
  • Parents trained to deliver intervention: contributes to sustainability and effectiveness of the intervention 
  • SSIs are common surgical complications in low-and-middle income counties 

The paper ‘A randomised control trial using soap in the prevention of surgical site infection in Tanzania’ was published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery

OUGSG authors

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