Background Antiseptic and antibacterial solutions used for intraoperative irrigation are intended to kill bacteria and thereby decrease the incidence of surgical site infections. It is unknown if the concentrations and exposure times of irrigation solutions commonly used for prophylaxis in clean cases (povidone-iodine 0.35% for 3 minutes) are effective against bacteria in biofilm that are present in implant infections. Currently, povidone-iodine (0.35%), chlorhexidine (0.05%), sodium hypochlorite (0.125%), and triple antibacterial solution are all being used off-label for wound irrigation after surgical débridement for orthopaedic infections.
Questions/purposes Do commonly used antibacterials and antiseptics kill bacteria in established biofilm at clinically relevant concentrations and exposure times?
Methods Staphylococcus epidermidis (ATCC#35984) biofilms were exposed to chlorhexidine (0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1%), povidone-iodine (0.35%, 1.0%, 3.5%, and 10%), sodium hypochlorite (0.125%, 0.25%, and 0.5%,), and triple antibacterial solution (bacitracin 50,000 U/L, gentamicin 80 mg/L, and polymyxin 500,000 U/L) for 1, 5, and 10 minutes in triplicate. Surviving bacteria were detected by 21-day subculture. Failure to eradicate all bacteria in any of the three replicates was considered to be “not effective” for that respective solution, concentration, and exposure time.
Results Chlorhexidine 0.05% and 0.1% at all three exposure times, povidone-iodine 10% at all three exposure times, and povidone-iodine 3.5% at 10 minutes only were effective at eradicating S epidermidis from biofilm. All concentrations and all exposure times of sodium hypochlorite and triple antibacterial solution were not effective.
Conclusions Chlorhexidine is capable of eradicating S epidermidis from biofilm in vitro in clinically relevant concentrations and exposure times. Povidone-iodine at commonly used concentrations and exposure times, sodium hypochlorite, and triple antibacterial solutions are not.
Clinical Relevance This in vitro study suggests that chlorhexidine may be a more effective irrigation solution for S epidermidis in biofilm than other commonly used solutions, such as povidone-iodine, Dakin’s solution, and triple antibiotic solution. Clinical outcomes should be studied to determine the most effective antiseptic agent, concentration, and exposure time when intraoperative irrigation is used in the presence of biofilm.