Memorize the name of this antiseptic wash and make sure your hospital uses it: chlorhexidine.
Research continues to pile up that diligent but inexpensive efforts by hospital staff can greatly cut the annual toll of an estimated 100,000 lives lost to hospital infections. The latest simple step involves greater use of the antiseptic chlorhexidine to wash patients before surgery.
In two studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, post-surgical infections were cut dramatically when either of two steps were taken:
* Disinfect the patient’s skin just before surgery with a chlorhexidine-alcohol rub — instead of the usual iodine prep.
* Have the patient shower for several days before surgery with a chlorhexidine-based soap, like Hibiclens.
Read more on this antiseptic at Wikipedia.
See Pam Belluck’s article in the New York Times for more details on the new studies.
My book, “The Life You Save,” lists simple ways patients can help reduce their risk of getting infections in the hospital, including chlorhexidine soap. So the latest studies are only confirming the wisdom of this advice. But because many hospitals don’t yet do this, you should ask questions and make sure they have plenty of chlorhexidine on board.