Cotton swab: Key in fight for surgical infections

Washington: Painless and gentle probing of a wound with a dry cotton swab after surgery dramatically reduces infections in post-operative incision sites, according to a new research.

In a sentinel trial, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center surgeon Shirin Towfigh, MD, found that only 3 percent of patients who had the daily probings contracted infections compared to 19 percent of those who didn’t -- a rate more than six times higher than that of the study group.

“That a humble cotton swab could have such an impact in reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired infections is really quite remarkable,” Towfigh said.

“This study reminds us that scientists can still find effective treatments when we are willing to think outside of the ‘technology box.’

Besides greatly reducing incision infections, painless probing with the cotton swab resulted in less post-operative pain for patients and significantly shorter hospital stays (five vs. seven days).

Patients also had better cosmetic healing of their incisions and – unsurprisingly -- higher satisfaction with their outcomes.


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