This guide aims to answer your questions about how to best prepare your skin before planned surgery. The purpose of preparing your skin before surgery is to ensure that it is thoroughly cleansed in order to reduce the number of bacteria (micro-organisms) that are normally found on the skin. This will reduce the risk of an infection developing at the site of surgery. Skin cleansing in this way is recommended in some but not all procedures.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you.
- Preparing your skin before surgery
- Two days before your surgery
- One day before your surgery
- On the morning of your surgery
- Why is it important that I follow all the above steps?
- After surgery
- Allergic reactions
- Video guide
- Contact details
This information is available as a leaflet here.
You can watch the HiBiScrub® video on YouTube here.
Preparing your skin before surgery
When you come to the hospital for your pre-assessment prior to your surgical procedure, the nurse will give you one bottle of chlorhexidine gluconate skin cleanser (HiBiScrub® Plus or Hydrex). This is an antiseptic which you need to use to prepare your skin before surgery. Preparation of your skin should start two days before the planned date of your surgery.
Do not use the chlorhexidine solution, and let the doctor or nurse caring for you know if any of the following apply to you:
- you have a known allergy to chlorhexidine gluconate.
- you have an underlying skin condition.
- you have open wounds or broken skin.
If any of the above apply, an alternative skin cleanser will be provided.
- Chlorhexidine Gluconate skin cleanser is for External Use Only.
- Do NOT Swallow.
- Keep out of reach of children.
- Do not use after the expiry date on the label.
The three steps below summarise the skin preparation process, which should be followed carefully (please let your nurse know if you have any difficulties).
Step 1: Two days before your surgery
Routine shaving should be stopped at least two days before your surgery on all areas of your body, including the legs and underarms. This is to prevent any skin irritation or damage which could lead to an infection. Continue to wash / shower or bathe with your regular products at home. You can continue to shave your face and neck.
Step 2: One day before your surgery
In the morning of the day before your surgery, you can wash / shower / bathe and wash your hair with the regular products you use at home. On the evening of the day before your surgery, your skin needs to be prepared using the chlorhexidine skin cleanser, as explained below. You may need somebody to help you to ensure that all body areas are covered. Do not allow this product to get in contact with your eyes, ears, and mouth. Occasionally the chlorhexidine solution may cause skin irritation, such as temporary itching and/or redness. Directions for using the chlorhexidine gluconate skin cleanser (HiBiScrub® Plus):
- Wet the skin on your face, then wash your face with undiluted chlorhexidine skin cleanser, especially around the nose. Avoid contact with your eyes, ears, and mouth.
- Wet the skin on your body, ideally in the bath or shower.
- Apply the chlorhexidine skin cleanser directly to the skin using a clean cloth or sponge, paying particular attention to the armpits, groin, and buttocks and umbilicus.
- Leave the solution on the skin for about three minutes.
- Rinse off thoroughly.
- Now repeat Steps 1 to 4, but this time starting with your hair.
- After the final rinse, dry yourself with a clean dry towel.
- Put on clean clothes.
Once you have started preparing your skin before surgery, please do not apply any other bathing products, lotions, moisturisers, or makeup. This is because water and ingredients commonly found in personal care products can reduce the effectiveness of chlorhexidine
Step 3: On the morning of your surgery
- Please repeat instructions 1 to 8 from Step 1 (page 2) before coming to hospital.
- Pay particular attention to folds in the stomach and groin areas and umbilicus. Clearing away any fluff or particles from the umbilicus before you wash is very important.
- Wash the buttocks and the area in between them thoroughly.
- The nurse looking after you may ask you to repeat steps 1 to 6 above when you arrive at hospital.
- It is very important that we ensure all body areas are covered. If you require assistance, please do not hesitate to speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you.
Why is it important that I follow all the above steps?
Many microorganisms (germs) live in and on our bodies and are also present in our surroundings. Our skin prevents germs from entering our bodies. A surgical wound infection occurs when germs (such as bacteria) enter the cut that the surgeon makes through the skin to perform an operation. Using the chlorhexidine skin cleanser properly will reduce the number of bacteria on your skin which can potentially enter the cut. This may help to reduce the chances of you developing a wound infection.
Keep the bottle of your Chlorhexidine Skin Cleanser as you may need to continue using it after your procedure.
You will be given information and advice on how to care for your surgical wound when you are at home.
If you have any further questions, contact your doctor or nurse looking after you.
If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse.
There have been very rare reports of allergic reactions in patients who have used products containing chlorhexidine. In some cases, these have been severe (anaphylaxis). If you experience any signs of allergy following use of the chlorhexidine skin cleanser - for example a rash, breathing difficulties, palpitations, or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat - or if you feel unwell in any way, please seek medical advice immediately. Let them know that you have used chlorhexidine skin cleanser recently and take the bottle with you if possible.
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For more information contact the SSIS team: