Antibiotic Use in Hand Surgery: Surgeon Decision Making and Adherence to Available Evidence

John C. Dunn, Kenneth R. Means, Sameer Desale, Aviram M. Giladi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: There are no clearly defined guidelines from hand surgical societies regarding preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis. Many hand surgeons continue to routinely use preoperative prophylaxis with limited supporting evidence. This study aimed to determine for which scenarios surgeons give antibiotics, the reasons for administration, and whether these decisions are evidence-based. Methods: An anonymous 25-question survey was e-mailed to the 921-member American Society for Surgery of the Hand listserv. We collected demographic information; participants were asked whether they would administer antibiotics in a number of surgical scenarios and for what reasons. Respondents were broken into 3 groups based on when they said they would administer antibiotics: Group 1 (40 respondents) would give antibiotics in the case of short cases, healthy patients, without hardware; group 2 (9 respondents) would not give antibiotics in any scenario; and group 3 (129 respondents) would give antibiotics situationally. The Fisher exact test compared demographic variables, frequency of use, and indications of antibiotic prophylaxis. Results: Of the 921 recipients, 178 (19%) responded. Demographic variables did not correlate with the antibiotic use group. Operative case time >60 minutes, medical comorbidity, and pinning each increased antibiotic use. Group 1 respondents were more likely to admit that their practice was not evidence-based (74.4%) and that they gave antibiotics for medical-legal concern (75%). Twenty-two percent of respondents reported seeing a complication from routine prophylaxis, including Clostridium difficile infection. Conclusions: Antibiotics are still given unnecessarily before hand surgery, most often for medical-legal concern. Clear guidelines for preoperative antibiotic use may help reduce excessive and potentially inappropriate treatment and provide medical-legal support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-541
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • antibiotic prophylaxis
  • decision making
  • evidence-based practice
  • hand surgery
  • perioperative antibiotics


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