ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)Many gynecologic surgeons change gloves, gowns, and even surgical drapes during total laparoscopic hysterectomy to prevent bacterial infections, but little data support the practice.

In a small study of women undergoing total laparoscopic hysterectomy, investigators found that the overall risk of infection from contaminated gowns, gloves, and instruments was very low, with bacterial growth below the infection threshold in 98.9% of samples and no surgical site infections reported during 6 weeks of follow-up after surgery.

“Performing a safe total laparoscopic hysterectomy requires the surgeon to toggle back and forth between the vaginal and abdominal fields, to manipulate the uterus, and to deliver the specimen through the colpotomy,” said Marie E. Shockley, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology fellow at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston.

“Tradition dictates that even after both fields have been prepped, we refer to the perineum and vagina as ‘dirty,’ and the abdomen as ‘clean,’ ” Dr. Shockley said, “And surgeons habitually change their gown and gloves when inadvertent contact with the perineum or vagina occurs.”

To elucidate the true pathogen picture, Dr. Shockley and her colleagues assessed 31 women undergoing total laparoscopic hysterectomy for a benign indication during 2016. They evaluated the type and quantity of bacteria found intraoperatively on the abdomen, vagina, surgical gloves, instrument tips, and uterus.

All patients received perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis and standard, separate perineovaginal and abdominal prep with chlorhexidine. Investigators swabbed the vaginal fornices and abdomen at six sites, as well as the surgeon’s gloves following placement of the uterine manipulator, tips of instruments used to close the vaginal cuff, uterine fundus after extraction, and surgeon’s gloves following removal of the uterus.

They detected no anaerobic bacterial growth from samples taken from the abdomen, in the vagina, or on the tips of instruments used for cuff closure. Similarly, there was no aerobic growth observed in the vagina of any patient. However, they did detect aerobic bacterial growth in the abdomen, which in all cases was consistent with skin flora.

Three patients demonstrated some growth with the surgeon’s gloves following manipulator placement. Nearly one-third – 32% – of surgeon’s gloves cultured bacteria after removal of the uterus. One sample yielded cumulative growth for a bacterial count considered high enough to potentially cause infection, defined as more than 5,000 colony-forming units (CFU) per milliliter. This was the highest growth sample out of the 180 samples collected.

Additionally, 39% of samples from the uterine fundus were positive, a higher percentage than at any other site, Dr. Shockley reported. “And the one sample with growth exceeding 5,000 CFU/mL – you guessed it – was from the same patient.”

Bacterial growth was scant on the instrument tips used to close the vaginal cuffs.

Overall, bacterial growth in 98.9% of samples was below the infection threshold. “We did not identify any post–surgical site infections during 6 weeks of follow-up,” Dr. Shockley said at the meeting sponsored by AAGL.

“This study does provide a good description and count of the bacteria encountered during total laparoscopic hysterectomy. They are unlikely to cause surgical site infections … but based on concentration and frequency of bacterial growth on the surgeon’s gloves after specimen extraction, we would recommend if you are going to change gloves, do it after this step, before turning your attention back to the abdomen for vaginal cuff closure,” she said.

But changing gloves after placing the Foley and uterine manipulator “seems to be a wasted exercise,” Dr. Shockley said. “There was no growth on the vaginal fornices of any patient.”

The bacteria on the gloves in those three cases developed very low colony counts. “Yes, there was growth after the removal of the specimen, but with the exception of one patient, the colony counts were all below 5,000,” she said. “I think we need more data to reassure ourselves [attire changes are] unnecessary at every step of the [total laparoscopic hysterectomy].”

The study was supported by an educational grant from the Foundation of the AAGL Jerome J. Hoffman Endowment. Dr. Shockley reported having no relevant financial disclosures.


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