Randomized clinical trial of the effect of applying ointment to surgical wounds before occlusive dressing

Br J Surg. 2006 Aug;93(8):937-43. doi: 10.1002/bjs.5400.


Background: A blinded randomized clinical trial was undertaken to evaluate the effect of applying ointment to a wound before occlusive dressing, in comparison with no ointment or sterile paraffin.

Methods: Some 778 patients with 1801 surgical wounds following excision of skin lesions were enrolled in the trial. No ointment was placed on 510 sutured wounds of 247 patients, paraffin ointment was put on 729 wounds (269 patients) and mupirocin ointment on 562 wounds (262 patients). Wound infection, scar, haemorrhage, dehiscence and other complications were assessed at suture removal. At 6-9 months after surgery, patients were surveyed to assess the wounds, with a response rate of 74.0 per cent.

Results: There were no significant differences in outcome for all endpoints evaluated. The infection rate was 1.4 per cent with no ointment, 1.6 per cent for paraffin and 2.3 per cent for mupirocin (P = 0.490). Total complication rates were 3.5, 4.7 and 4.8 per cent for no ointment, paraffin and mupirocin respectively (P = 0.590). Some 10.9, 10.3 and 8.2 per cent of patients respectively had a neutral or negative perception of their wounds at 6-9 months after surgery (P = 0.650). There was no difference in postoperative pain, degree of inconvenience or overall level of satisfaction with treatment.

Conclusion: Putting ointment on a surgical wound before occlusive dressing does not benefit the patient. In view of the risk of antibiotic resistance, mupirocin ointment is not indicated for clean surgical wounds.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mupirocin / administration & dosage*
  • Occlusive Dressings*
  • Ointments / administration & dosage
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing / drug effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ointments
  • Mupirocin