Reducing Postsurgical Infections

My Device: The Cotton-Tip Applicator


A ubiquitous bathroom staple – the Q tip®—may be a key tool in the war against surgical infections. Postoperative surgical-site infections remain a major source of illness and a cause of death in patients. These infections number approximately 500,000 per year and account for nearly one quarter of the hospital-acquired infections in the United States. Until now, other than antibiotics, no single local-wound therapy has proven to reliably decrease the rate of surgical-site infection.

Cedars Sinai’s clinical trial—the first of its kind—showed that a simple and painless daily probing of the wound with a cotton-tip applicator dramatically reduced infections in contaminated wounds.

Patients enrolled in our trial received daily swabs of their closed skin incisions with a simple solution of povidone-iodine. next, a dry, sterile cotton-tip applicator was used to penetrate the skin and soft tissue between the staples, allowing trapped fluid and bacteria to be released. Patients who underwent wound probing had a dramatically lower incidence of infection than those who did not (3 percent compared with 19 percent). As a result, the patients experienced a significantly shorter hospital stay (five days versus seven days), better cosmetic healing of their incisions, and higher patient satisfaction.

Colorectal surgeons at Cedars Sinai Medical Center are already adopting this technique for their patients and studying the results. This simple practice wound probing with a cotton swab—may be of widespread use in reducing the risk of infection for any wound sustained in an unclean or contaminated setting.

Android app on Google Play