Intraoperative chlorhexidine irrigation to prevent infection in total hip and knee arthroplasty

Arthroplast Today. 2017 May 12;3(4):294-297. doi: 10.1016/j.artd.2017.03.005. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Background: Surgical site irrigation during total hip (THA) and total knee (TKA) arthroplasty is a routine practice among orthopaedic surgeons to prevent periprosthetic joint infection. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) irrigation on infection rates following THA and TKA.

Methods: Arthroplasties performed before September 2014 served as controls. THA performed before September 2014 (N = 253) underwent intraoperative irrigation with 0.9% saline followed by a 2-minute soak with <2% dilute povidone-iodine. TKA (N = 411) patients underwent only intraoperative saline irrigation. After October 2014, all patients (248 TKA and 138 THA) received intraoperative irrigation with 0.9% saline and periodic 0.05% CHG solution followed by a final 1-minute soak in CHG with immediate closure afterward.

Results: In this 2:1 comparison of consecutive patients, there were no differences in patient demographics between the 2 groups. No difference was noted in wound healing concerns subjectively, and no statistically significant association in nonsurgical site infections, superficial surgical site infection, and deep surgical site infection rates between the 2 groups (nonsurgical site infections [THA: P = .244, TKA: P = .125]; superficial surgical site infection [THA: P = .555, TKA: P = .913]; and deep surgical site infection [THA: P = .302, TKA: P = .534]).

Conclusions: We were unable to discern a difference in infection rates between chlorhexidine irrigation and our prior protocols using dilute Betadine for THA and 0.9% saline for TKA. The theoretic advantages of dilute CHG retention during closure appear to be safe without infectious concerns.

Keywords: Irrigation; Lavage; Periprosthetic joint infection (PJI); Total hip arthroplasty (THA); Total knee arthroplasty (TKA).