Surgical hand preparation: state-of-the-art

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Feb;74(2):112-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.06.020. Epub 2009 Aug 28.


Surgical hand preparation has been recommended since the nineteenth century as a measure to reduce infection resulting from surgery. We review the evidence and major objectives of surgical hand preparation, as well as the criteria for the choice of products currently in use. Test and validation procedures for selecting products for surgical hand preparation in North America and Europe are compared. Surgical hand antisepsis using medicated soap and alcohol-based hand-rub formulations is discussed, including the technical aspects, time required for the procedure, drying time, potential for side-effects, and the parameters for the selection of the most appropriate formulations. Brushes are not recommended for surgical hand preparation. Rapid antimicrobial action, wider spectrum of activity, lower side-effects, and the absence of the risk of hand contamination by the rinsing water, clearly favour the use of alcohol-based hand rubs for surgical hand preparation, even in countries with limited resources where the provision of water is scarce or of doubtful quality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • General Surgery / methods*
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control