Background: Superficial surgical site infection (SSI) can be caused by bacterial invasion during surgery. We investigated whether bacteria are found at the wound margin during surgery and whether a wound protector (WP; Alexis® Wound Retractor; Applied Medical, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) contributes to preventing invasion of the incision margin.
Methods: We studied 272 patients who underwent gastrointestinal surgery (115 gastric, 157 colorectal, including emergency operations) between October 2005 and July 2007. The WP was used in all operations. After the intra-abdominal procedures were complete, bacterial swabs were taken from the abdominal cavity side of the WP and from the incision margin and used to prepare smears and cultures. After the swabbing, peritoneal lavage was performed using 3,000-5,000 mL of physiologic saline, and, after suture of the fascia, 500-1,000 mL of physiologic saline was used to irrigate the subcutaneous tissue.
Results: Nine gastric surgery patients and 15 colorectal surgery patients had positive cultures from the abdominal cavity. No patients had positive cultures from the incision margin. Of the 24 patients with positive cultures, three suffered SSIs, all of whom had undergone colorectal surgery. Of the patients who had negative cultures, SSI occurred in only one patient, who had undergone colorectal surgery.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the WP protects an incision site from bacterial invasion.