Topical antibiotic prophylaxis for prevention of surgical wound infections from dermatologic procedures: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Dermatolog Treat. 2015 Apr;26(2):151-8. doi: 10.3109/09546634.2014.906547. Epub 2014 Apr 8.


Importance: Topical antibiotics are not indicated for postsurgical wound infection prophylaxis in clean and clean-contaminated dermatologic surgeries, yet many dermatologists continue to prescribe them. The objective of our systematic review and meta-analysis was to critically assess the efficacy of topical antibiotics in terms of preventing postsurgical wound infections in the dermatology outpatient setting.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, MD Consult, Science Direct, Springer Link, DynaMed and Cochrane online medical databases were searched from 1980 to 2013.

Results: Using random effects modeling, the pooled odds ratio of developing a postsurgical wound infection was 0.71 (95% CI, 0.42-1.19).

Discussion: Pooled data of the four trials in the meta-analysis did not show a statistically significant difference in incidence of postsurgical wound infections between topical antibiotics and petrolatum/paraffin. In the setting of moist occlusive dressings, there is no statistically significant difference in prophylactic efficacy between applying and not applying ointment to surgical wounds. Wounds at increased risk of developing surgical site infections include wounds in diabetics, wounds located in certain anatomic regions, and wounds created by some surgical procedures.

Conclusions: Petrolatum should be used instead of topical antibiotics as a prophylactic measure to prevent postsurgical wound infections in the outpatient dermatologic setting.

Keywords: Mohs surgery; petrolatum; postsurgical.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods*
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Humans
  • Occlusive Dressings
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents