Antibacterial prophylaxis in dermatologic surgery: an evidence-based review

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(1):35-44. doi: 10.2165/11311090-000000000-00000.


Clean, non-contaminated skin surgery is associated with low rates of surgical site infection (SSI), bacterial endocarditis, and joint prosthesis infection. Hence, antibacterial prophylaxis, which may be associated with adverse effects, the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens, and anaphylaxis, is generally not recommended in dermatologic surgery. Some body sites and surgical reconstructive procedures are associated with higher infection rates, and guidelines for SSI antibacterial prophylaxis have been proposed for these cases. Large prospective, controlled trials are needed to ascertain the role of oral SSI prophylaxis for these surgical sites and procedures especially in patients with diabetes mellitus who are intrinsically at greater risk of SSI. Topical antibacterial ointment and sterile paraffin appear to make no difference to healing or the incidence of SSIs in clean wounds. Although further research is needed, preliminary studies have shown that intraincisional antibacterials, which may be associated with fewer adverse effects and a lower risk of multidrug-resistant bacteria, could potentially be helpful for SSI prophylaxis. Trials using honey- and silver-impregnated dressings have found no advantage in the healing of chronic wounds. However, several case studies, which need corroboration in larger studies, suggest that these dressings may be helpful in preventing and treating SSIs. Bacterial endocarditis and joint prosthesis infection prophylaxis are not routinely recommended in cutaneous surgery. The updated 2007 American Heart Association guidelines now advocate bacterial endocarditis prophylaxis for high-risk cardiac patients having surgery involving the oral mucosa or infected skin. The latest American Dental Association/American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery guidelines recommend considering antibacterial prophylaxis for oral procedures where bleeding is anticipated and for surgery involving acute orofacial skin infections if the patient has had a total joint replacement within 2 years or is in a high-risk group and has had a joint replacement at any time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / standards
  • Bacteremia / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / prevention & control
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Oral Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Oral Surgical Procedures / standards
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Diseases / surgery*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / complications
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / microbiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents