Assessing the impact of antibiotic prophylaxis in outpatient elective hand surgery: A single-center, retrospective review of 8,850 cases

Michael R. Bykowski, Wesley N. Sivak, James Cray, Glenn Buterbaugh, Joseph E. Imbriglia, W. P.Andrew Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Purpose: Prophylactic antibiotics have been shown to prevent surgical site infection (SSI) after some gastrointestinal, orthopedic, and plastic surgical procedures, but their efficacy in clean, elective hand surgery is unclear. Our aims were to assess the efficacy of preoperative antibiotics in preventing SSI after clean, elective hand surgery, and to identify potential risk factors for SSI. Methods: We queried the database from an outpatient surgical center by Current Procedural Terminology code to identify patients who underwent elective hand surgery. For each medical record, we collected patient demographics and characteristics along with preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative management details. The primary outcome of this study was SSI, and secondary outcomes were wound dehiscence and suture granuloma. Results: From October 2000 through October 2008, 8,850 patient records met our inclusion criteria. The overall SSI rate was 0.35%, with an average patient follow-up duration of 79 days. The SSI rates did not significantly differ between patients receiving antibiotics (0.54%; 2,755 patients) and those who did not (0.26%; 6,095 patients). Surgical site infection was associated with smoking status, diabetes mellitus, and longer procedure length irrespective of antibiotic use. Subgroup analysis revealed that prophylactic antibiotics did not prevent SSI in male patients, smokers, or diabetics, or for procedure length less than 30 minutes, 30 to 60 minutes, and greater than 60 minutes. Conclusions: Prophylactic antibiotic administration does not reduce the incidence of SSI after clean, elective hand surgery in an outpatient population. Moreover, subgroup analysis revealed that prophylactic antibiotics did not reduce the frequency of SSI among patients who were found to be at higher risk in this study. We identified 3 factors associated with the development of SSI in our study: diabetes mellitus status, procedure length, and smoking status. Given the potential harmful complications associated with antibiotic use and the lack of evidence that prophylactic antibiotics prevent SSIs, we conclude that antibiotics should not be routinely administered to patients who undergo clean, elective hand surgery. Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1741-1747
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Hand
  • antibiotic
  • elective
  • infection
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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