Impact of evidence-based interventions on wound complications after cesarean delivery

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Oct;217(4):449.e1-449.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.05.070. Epub 2017 Jun 8.


Background: A number of evidence-based interventions have been proposed to reduce post-cesarean delivery wound complications. Examples of such interventions include appropriate timing of preoperative antibiotics, appropriate choice of skin antisepsis, closure of the subcutaneous layer if subcutaneous depth is ≥2 cm, and subcuticular skin closure with suture rather than staples. However, the collective impact of these measures is unclear.

Objective: We sought to estimate the impact of a group of evidence-based surgical measures (prophylactic antibiotics administered before skin incision, chlorhexidine-alcohol for skin antisepsis, closure of subcutaneous layer, and subcuticular skin closure with suture) on wound complications after cesarean delivery and to estimate residual risk factors for wound complications.

Study design: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial of chlorhexidine-alcohol vs iodine-alcohol for skin antisepsis at cesarean delivery from 2011-2015. The primary outcome for this analysis was a composite of wound complications that included surgical site infection, cellulitis, seroma, hematoma, and separation within 30 days. Risk of wound complications in women who received all 4 evidence-based measures (prophylactic antibiotics within 60 minutes of cesarean delivery and before skin incision, chlorhexidine-alcohol for skin antisepsis with 3 minutes of drying time before incision, closure of subcutaneous layer if ≥2 cm of depth, and subcuticular skin closure with suture) were compared with those women who did not. We performed logistic regression analysis limited to patients who received all the evidence-based measures to estimate residual risk factors for wound complications and surgical site infection.

Results: Of 1082 patients with follow-up data, 349 (32.3%) received all the evidence-based measures, and 733 (67.7%) did not. The risk of wound complications was significantly lower in patients who received all the evidence-based measures compared with those who did not (20.3% vs 28.1%; adjusted relative risk, 0.75; 95% confidence interval, 0.58-0.95). The impact appeared to be driven largely by a reduction in surgical site infections. Among patients who received all the evidence-based measures, unscheduled cesarean delivery was the only significant risk factor for wound complications (27.5% vs 16.1%; adjusted relative risk, 1.71; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-2.47) and surgical site infection (6.9% vs 1.6%; relative risk, 3.74; 95% confidence interval, 1.18-11.92). Other risk factors, which include obesity, smoking, diabetes mellitus, chorioamnionitis, surgical experience, and skin incision type, were not significant among patients who received all of the 4 evidence-based measures.

Conclusion: Implementation of evidence-based measures significantly reduces wound complications, but the residual risk remains high, which suggests the need for additional interventions, especially in patients who undergo unscheduled cesarean deliveries, who are at risk for wound complications even after receiving current evidence-based measures.

Keywords: cesarean delivery; evidence-based measures; infection; skin antisepsis; skin closure; subcutaneous tissue; surgical site infection; wound complication.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / administration & dosage
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis
  • Cellulitis / prevention & control
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Chlorhexidine / administration & dosage
  • Chorioamnionitis / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Emergencies
  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Female
  • Hematoma / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroma / prevention & control
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / prevention & control
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control
  • Suture Techniques


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Chlorhexidine