Effect of chlorhexidine whole-body bathing on hospital-acquired infections among trauma patients

Arch Surg. 2010 Mar;145(3):240-6. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2010.5.


Objective: To demonstrate whether daily bathing with cloths impregnated with 2% chlorhexidine gluconate will decrease colonization of resistant bacteria and reduce the rates of health care-associated infections in critically injured patients.

Design: Retrospective analysis of data collected 6 months before and after institution of a chlorhexidine bathing protocol.

Setting: A 12-bed intensive care unit in a level I trauma center.

Patients: Two hundred eighty-six severely injured patients underwent daily chlorhexidine bathing during the 6-month intervention; 253 patients were bathed without chlorhexidine prior to the intervention.

Interventions: Daily chlorhexidine bathing.

Main outcomes measures: Rates of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), bloodstream infection, and colonization with resistant organisms (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] or Acinetobacter species).

Results: Baseline patient and injury characteristics were similar between cohorts. Patients receiving chlorhexidine baths were significantly less likely to acquire a catheter-related bloodstream infection than comparators (2.1 vs 8.4 infections per 1000 catheter-days, P = .01). The incidence of VAP was not affected by chlorhexidine baths (16.9 vs 21.6 infections per 1000 ventilator-days in those with vs those without chlorhexidine baths, respectively, P = .30). However, patients who received chlorhexidine baths were less likely to develop MRSA VAP (1.6 vs 5.7 infections per 1000 ventilator-days, P = .03). The rate of colonization with MRSA (23.3 vs 69.3 per 1000 patient-days, P < .001) and Acinetobacter (1.0 vs 4.6 per 1000 patient-days, P = .36) was significantly lower in the chlorhexidine group than in the comparison group.

Conclusions: Daily bathing of trauma patients with cloths impregnated with 2% chlorhexidine gluconate is associated with a decreased rate of colonization by MRSA and Acinetobacter and lower rates of catheter-related bloodstream infection and MRSA VAP.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Baths*
  • Chlorhexidine / administration & dosage
  • Chlorhexidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cross Infection / complications
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Wounds and Injuries* / complications


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • chlorhexidine gluconate
  • Chlorhexidine