Postoperative Wound Infections and Surgical Face Masks: A Controlled Study

World J Surg. May-Jun 1991;15(3):383-7; discussion 387-8. doi: 10.1007/BF01658736.

Abstract

It has never been shown that wearing surgical face masks decreases postoperative wound infections. On the contrary, a 50% decrease has been reported after omitting face masks. The present study was designed to reveal any 30% or greater difference in general surgery wound infection rates by using face masks or not. During 115 weeks, a total of 3,088 patients were included in the study. Weeks were denoted as "masked" or "unmasked" according to a random list. After 1,537 operations performed with face masks, 73 (4.7%) wound infections were recorded and, after 1,551 operations performed without face masks, 55 (3.5%) infections occurred. This difference was not statistically significant (p greater than 0.05) and the bacterial species cultured from the wound infections did not differ in any way, which would have supported the fact tha the numerical difference was a statistically "missed" difference. These results indicated that the use of face masks might be reconsidered. Masks may be used to protect the operating team from drops of infected blood and from airborne infections, but have not been proven to protect the patient operated by a healthy operating team.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Masks*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surgical Wound Infection / microbiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*