Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Researchers at James Cook University have found that a water-based antiseptic solution is as effective as an alcohol-based solution at preventing infection.
Surgeons use antiseptic solutions routinely on the skin prior to surgery to kill or prevent the growth of microorganisms and prevent wound infections. Chlorhexidine is a common antiseptic solution that can be dissolved in water or alcohol.
The study, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, examined whether alcohol-based antiseptic solutions are more effective than water-based antiseptic solutions at preventing infection in surgery.
Alcohol-based solutions can cause irritation to the skin and eyes, and can remove markings drawn on the body to guide surgeons.
"Despite this, we thought alcoholic chlorhexidine might be a better antiseptic than a water-based solution, as alcohol is an antiseptic in its own right. But we felt it was important to confirm that it really was better," Professor Clare Heal, of James Cook University, said in a press release.
Researchers analyzed 916 patients who randomly had alcohol or water-based antiseptic applied to their skin before minor surgery. The rate of wound infections and adverse effects were measured and only a slight, non-significant difference was found between the alcohol or water-based solution.
"We found that, although the infection rate was slightly lower with the alcohol-based solution [5.8 percent] than in the water-based solution [6.8 percent], the difference was not significant, and it would require 100 patients to be treated with alcoholic solution to prevent one extra infection," Heal said.