Objective: To assess the effect of white petrolatum vs bacitracin ointment on wound infection incidence, allergic contact dermatitis incidence, and healing characteristics.
Design: Randomized, double-blind, prospective trial comparing white petrolatum with bacitracin ointment in postprocedure wound care.
Setting: A general outpatient dermatology clinic and a tertiary referral advanced surgical procedure clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC.
Patients: A total of 922 patients who had dermatologic surgery with a total of 1249 wounds.
Main outcome measures: The incidence of infection and allergic contact dermatitis during a follow-up period of 4 weeks. Healing characteristics were secondary outcomes.
Results: Of the 922 patients enrolled, 440 in the white petrolatum group and 444 in the bacitracin group were evaluable for clinical response. The 2 treatment groups had comparable baseline characteristics. Thirteen patients developed postprocedure infection (1.5%), 9 (2.0%) in the white petrolatum group vs 4 (0.9%) in the bacitracin group (95% confidence interval for difference, -0.4% to 2.7%; P=.37). Eight infections (1.8%) in the white petrolatum group were due to Staphylococcus aureus vs none in the bacitracin group (P=.004). No patient in the group using white petrolatum developed allergic contact dermatitis vs 4 patients (0.9%) in the group using bacitracin (P=.12). Additionally, there were no clinically significant differences in healing between the treatment groups on day 1 (P=.98), day 7 (P=.86), or day 28 (P=.28) after the procedure.
Conclusions: White petrolatum is a safe, effective wound care ointment for ambulatory surgery. In comparison with bacitracin, white petrolatum possesses an equally low infection rate and minimal risk for induction of allergy.