Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology

Original Articles

The Efficacy of Daily Bathing with Chlorhexidine for Reducing Healthcare-Associated Bloodstream Infections: A Meta-analysis

John C. O'Horoa1, Germana L. M. Silvaa2, L. Silvia Munoz-Pricea3 and Nasia Safdara4 c1

a1 Department of Graduate Medical Education, Aurora Healthcare Metro, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

a2 Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

a3 Departments of Medicine and of Public Health and Epidemiology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

a4 Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin


Design. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies to assess the efficacy of daily bathing with chlorhexidine (CHG) for prevention of healthcare-associated bloodstream infections (BSIs).

Setting. Medical, surgical, trauma, and combined medical-surgical intensive care units (ICUs) and long-term acute care hospitals.

Participants. Inpatients.

Methods. Data on patient population, diagnostic criteria for BSIs, form and concentration of topical CHG, incidence of BSIs, and study design were extracted.

Results. One randomized controlled trial and 11 nonrandomized controlled trials reporting a total of 137,392 patient-days met the inclusion criteria; 291 patients in the CHG arm developed a BSI over 67,775 patient-days, compared with 557 patients in the control arm over 69,617 catheter-days. CHG bathing resulted in a reduced incidence of BSIs: the pooled odds ratio using a random-effects model was 0.44 (95% confidence interval, 0.33–0.59; P< .00001). Statistical heterogeneity was moderate, with an I2 of 58%. For the subgroup of studies that examined central line–associated BSIs, the odds ratio was 0.40 (95% confidence interval, 0.27–0.59).

Conclusions. Daily bathing with CHG reduced the incidence of BSIs, including central line-associated BSIs, among patients in the medical ICU. Further studies are recommended to determine the optimal frequency, method of application, and concentration of CHG as well as the comparative effectiveness of this strategy relative to other preventive measures available for reducing BSIs. Future studies should also examine the efficacy of daily CHG bathing in non-ICU populations at risk for BSI.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2012;33(3):257-267

(Received August 09 2011)

(Accepted October 31 2011)


c1 University of Wisconsin Medical School, 1685 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705 (