Chlorhexidine gluconate 0.12% oral rinse reduces the incidence of total nosocomial respiratory infection and nonprophylactic systemic antibiotic use in patients undergoing heart surgery

Chest. 1996 Jun;109(6):1556-61. doi: 10.1378/chest.109.6.1556.


STUDY OFJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of oropharyngeal decontamination on nosocomial infections in a comparatively homogeneous population of patients undergoing heart surgery.

Design: This was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Experimental and control groups were selected for similar infection risk parameters. SEETTING: Cardiovascular ICU of a tertiary care hospital.

Patients: Three hundred fifty-three consecutive patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, valve, or other open heart surgical procedures were randomized to an experimental (n=173) or control (n=180) group. Heart and lung transplantations were excluded.

Interventions: The experimental drug chosen was 0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate (CHX) oral rinse.

Measurements and results: The overall nosocomial infection rate was decreased in the CHX-treated patients by 65% (24/180 vs 8/173; p<0.01). We also noted a 69% reduction in the incidence of total respiratory tract infections in the CHX-treated group (17/180 vs 5/173; p<0.05). Gram-negative organisms were involved in significantly less (p<0.05) of the nosocomial infections and total respiratory tract infections by 59% and 67%, respectively. No change in bacterial antibiotic resistance patterns in either group was observed. The use of nonprophylactic IV antibiotics was lowered by 43% (42/180 vs 23/173; p<0.05). A reduction in mortality in the CHX-treated group was also noted (1.16% vs 5.56%).

Conclusions: Inexpensive and easily applied oropharyngeal decontamination with CHX oral rinse reduces the total nosocomial respiratory infection rate and the use of nonprophylactic systemic antibiotics in patients undergoing heart surgery. This results in significant cost savings for those patients who avoid additional antibiotic treatment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Chlorhexidine / administration & dosage
  • Chlorhexidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouthwashes*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Mouthwashes
  • chlorhexidine gluconate
  • Chlorhexidine