Wound edge protectors in open abdominal surgery to reduce surgical site infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 27;10(3):e0121187. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121187. eCollection 2015.


Importance: Surgical site infections remain one of the most frequent complications following abdominal surgery and cause substantial costs, morbidity and mortality.

Objective: To assess the effectiveness of wound edge protectors in open abdominal surgery in reducing surgical site infections.

Evidence review: A systematic literature search was conducted according to a prespecified review protocol in a variety of data-bases combined with hand-searches for randomized controlled trials on wound edge protectors in patients undergoing laparotomy. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of included trials was conducted.

Findings: We identified 16 randomized controlled trials including 3695 patients investigating wound edge protectors published between 1972 and 2014. Critical appraisal uncovered a number of methodological flaws, predominantly in the older trials. Wound edge protectors significantly reduced the rate of surgical site infections (risk ratio 0.65; 95%CI, 0.51-0.83; p = 0.0007; I2 = 52%). The results were robust in a number of sensitivity analyses. A similar effect size was found in the subgroup of patients undergoing colorectal surgery (risk ratio 0.65; 95%CI, 0.44-0.97; p = 0.04; I2 = 56%). Of the two common types of wound protectors double ring devices were found to exhibit a greater protective effect (risk ratio 0.29; 95%CI, 0.15-0.55) than single-ring devices (risk ratio 0.71; 95%CI, 0.54-0.92), but this might largely be due to the lower quality of available data for double-ring devices. Exploratory subgroup analyses for the degree of contamination showed a larger protective effect in contaminated cases (0.44; 95%CI, 0.28-0.67; p = 0.0002, I2 = 23%) than in clean-contaminated surgeries (0.72, 95%CI, 0.57-0.91; p = 0.005; I2 = 46%) and a strong effect on the reduction of superficial surgical site infections (risk ratio 0.45; 95%CI, 0.24-0.82; p = 0.001; I2 = 72%).

Conclusions and relevance: Wound edge protectors significantly reduce the rate of surgical site infections in open abdominal surgery. Further trials are needed to explore their effectiveness in different risk constellations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / pathology
  • Abdomen / surgery*
  • Abdominal Wound Closure Techniques*
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Humans
  • Laparotomy
  • Surgical Wound Infection / pathology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.