Conference Coverage

No link found between OR skullcaps and infection



JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – Surgeons who choose to wear a skullcap in the OR can point to yet another study with evidence to bolster their preference.

Two major hospital and nursing credentialing organizations have recommended that hospitals ban skullcaps from the operating room as a practice to control surgical site infections, but a study of almost 2,000 operations at an academic medical center has found that strictly enforcing the ban had no impact on infection rates, according to results of a study presented at the Association for Academic Surgery/Society of University Surgeons Academic Surgical Congress.

Dr. Arturo J. Rios-Diaz

The study, conducted at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, showed that rates of surgical site infections (SSIs) were almost identical in the year before and the year after the institution implemented the skullcap ban. “The overall surgical site infection rate was 5.4%, and there were no differences in surgical site infections before or after the headwear policy was adopted,” said Arturo J. Rios-Diaz, MD. The Joint Commission and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses recommend against the use of skullcaps.

The study reviewed American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program data on 1,901 patients who had 1,950 clean or clean-contaminated general surgery procedures in 2015, the year before the ban was implemented, and in 2016 (767 in 2015 and 1,183 in 2016). The most common procedures were colectomy (18.2%), pancreatectomy (13.5%), and ventral hernia repair (9.9%). The study excluded orthopedic and vascular operations and any cases with sepsis or an active infection at the time of surgery.

There were some differences between the pre- and postban patient groups. The preban group was younger (median age, 57.91 years vs. 59.75, P = .01) but had more patients who were obese, measured as body mass index above 30 kg/m2 (42.37% vs. 35.23%, P less than .01), and smokers (16.18% vs. 12.27%, P = .02). Wound classification also differed: clean, 38.55% before vs. 43.91% after; and clean-contaminated, 61.45% vs. 56.09% (P = .02). All other demographic and clinical characteristics were similar between the two groups.

“In multivariate logistic regression models controlling for these confounders, there was no association of the banning of skullcaps with decreased surgical site infection rates,” Dr. Rios-Diaz said.

“The adoption of guidelines targeted to optimize patient care should always be welcomed by surgeons,” he said. “However, if they’re going to be implemented on a national level, these policies must be based on higher levels of evidence, so further studies are warranted to assess the validity of the [Joint Commission] headwear guidelines.” According to Dr. Rios-Diaz, the recommendations from the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses are based on two case series from the 1960s and 1970s.

Thomas Jefferson University once again allows skullcaps in the OR, he said.

Dr. Rios-Diaz and his coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.

SOURCE: Rios-Diaz AJ et al. Annual Academic Surgical Congress. Abstract 09.11.

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