OBJECTIVE:: To determine whether bacterial colonization of drains can be reduced by local antiseptic interventions. BACKGROUND:: Drains are a potential source of bacterial entry into surgical wounds and may contribute to surgical site infection after breast surgery. METHODS:: After institutional review board approval, patients undergoing total mastectomy and/or axillary lymph node dissection were randomized to standard drain care (control) or drain antisepsis (treated). Standard drain care comprised twice daily cleansing with alcohol swabs. Antisepsis drain care included (1) a chlorhexidine disc at the drain exit site and (2) irrigation of the drain bulb twice daily with dilute sodium hypochlorite (DakinÊs) solution. Culture results of drain fluid and tubing were compared between control and antisepsis groups. RESULTS:: Overall, 100 patients with 125 drains completed the study with 48 patients (58 drains) in the control group and 52 patients (67 drains) in the antisepsis group. Cultures of drain bulb fluid at 1 week were positive (1+ or greater growth) in 66% (38/58) of control drains compared with 21% (14/67) of antisepsis drains (P = 0.0001). Drain tubing cultures demonstrated more than 50 colony-forming units in 19% (8/43) of control drains versus 0% (0/53) of treated drains (P = 0.004). Surgical site infection was diagnosed in 6 patients (6%) - 5 patients in the control group and 1 patient in the antisepsis group (P = 0.06). CONCLUSIONS:: Simple and inexpensive local antiseptic interventions with a chlorhexidine disc and hypochlorite solution reduce bacterial colonization of drains. Based on these data, further study of drain antisepsis and its potential impact on surgical site infection rate is warranted (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01286168).
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