A prospective study of wound infection in coronary artery surgery

J Bellchambers, J M Harris, P Cullinan, H Gaya, J R Pepper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The incidence of wound infection in coronary artery surgery is low, but there is an appreciable mortality associated with sternal infection. In other fields of surgery there is evidence that an all disposable paper gown and drape system has protective advantages over a fabric system. Using an established wound scoring system (ASEPSIS), we investigated this in a prospective, randomised trial of patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

METHODS: 505 patients undergoing isolated coronary artery surgery in a single hospital over an 18 month period were randomised to either a disposable, paper drape system or re-usable fabric drapes. Allocation was stratified according to whether or not the patient had had previous coronary artery surgery. Patients were followed for 3 months. Total infection scores for each wound were calculated from daily scores collected in hospital together with the scores at six weeks and three months.

RESULTS: The two randomised groups were otherwise well matched. Full follow-up information was available for 464 (92%) patients. There was no evidence of any difference in rates of sternal or leg wound infection between the two groups (P = 0.87 and 0.62, respectively). Women were more likely to have infected sternal wounds (P = 0.17) and significantly more likely to have infected leg wounds (P = 0.04). Patients with sternal wound infections had a significantly higher body mass index (P = 0.001). High Parsonnet scores and increased time on ventilation were significantly associated with leg wound but not sternal infections. For both wound sites, patients with infections had spent longer in the operating theatre.

CONCLUSION: In a randomised controlled study of patients undergoing coronary artery surgery we found that the use of paper drapes and gowns conferred no benefit over a reusable fabric in terms of post-operative wound infection. Although females and diabetics are more likely to experience this complication, an important additional risk factor is an extended operating time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


  • Coronary Disease
  • Coronary Vessels
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Revascularization
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Infection
  • Survival Rate


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