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The U.S. study at six hospitals included 849 patients who were having surgeries with a moderate risk for infection. The incision area was cleaned with either the iodine scrub or a mixture of chlorhexidine and alcohol. A month later, the overall infection rate in the chlorhexidine group was about 10 percent compared to 16 percent for iodine.
Darouiche said the two preps both work against a variety of germs but the newer blue-tinted antiseptic works quicker and longer. It costs more -- on average $12 vs. $3 for the iodine prep -- but Darouiche said the expense is outweighed by the thousands saved by preventing costly infections.
Dr. Richard Wenzel, who wrote an editorial on the studies, said the U.S. research supports switching antiseptics. But he said the pre-surgery screening should be for those at higher risk of infection, including patients having heart surgery or getting an implant.
Wenzel, of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., said patients can play a role by asking about infection rates connected with their hospital and doctor. Prevention guidelines call for patients to get antibiotics right before surgery and for hair to be clipped, not shaved.
The two studies "offer remarkably safer strategies for all patients who require surgery," he wrote.
The U.S. study was funded by CareFusion Corp., formerly part of Cardinal Health Inc., which makes the antiseptics tested. The researchers report getting grants and consulting fees from the company, and one is a company employee. The Dutch study was funded by a number of drugmakers; some of the researchers receive advisory board and lecture fees from them.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
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