Importance: Surgical site infections (SSIs) after vascularized reconstruction of the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) are associated with considerable morbidity. The association between perioperative prophylaxis practices, particularly topical antisepsis, and SSIs remains uncertain. Objective: To assess the association between perioperative topical antisepsis and SSIs in patients undergoing vascularized reconstruction of the UADT. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included patients from 12 academic tertiary care centers over an 11-month period, from July 1, 2020, to June 1, 2021. Patients undergoing open surgical procedures requiring a communication between the UADT and cervical skin with a planned regional pedicled flap, free flap, or both were included. Patients with an active infection at the time of surgical procedure were excluded. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome measure was an SSI within 30 days of surgery. The association of demographic characteristics, perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis, surgical technique, and postoperative care with SSIs was assessed using univariable and multivariable analyses. The relative risk ratio and 95% CIs for developing SSI were calculated for each of the variables based on predetermined categories. Variables for which the relative risk 95% CI did not include the value of zero effect (relative risk = 1.00) were included in the multivariable model. Results: A total of 554 patients (median age, 64 years; range, 21-95 years; 367 men [66.2%]) were included. Cancer ablation was the most frequent reason for surgery (n = 480 [86.6%]). Overall, the SSI rate was 20.9% (n = 116), with most infections involving the head and neck surgical site only (91 [78.4%]). The median time to SSI diagnosis was 11 days (range, 1-28 days). Topical antisepsis mucosal preparation was performed preoperatively in 35.2% (195) and postoperatively in 52.2% (289) of cases. Ampicillin and sulbactam was the most common systemic antibiotic prophylaxis agent used (n = 367 [66.2%]), with 24 hours being the most common duration (n = 363 [65.5%]). On multivariable analysis, preoperative topical antisepsis mucosal preparation (odds ratio [OR], 0.49; 95% CI, 0.30-0.77) and systemic prophylaxis with piperacillin and tazobactam (OR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.21-0.84) were associated with a decreased risk of a postoperative SSI. The use of an osseous vascularized flap was associated with an increased risk of postoperative SSI (OR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.13-2.75). Conclusions and Relevance: Findings of this study suggest that preoperative topical antisepsis mucosal preparation was independently associated with a decreased risk of SSIs in a 12-center multi-institutional cohort. Further investigation of the association between individual perioperative practices and the incidence of postoperative SSIs is necessary to develop evidence-based protocols to reduce SSIs after UADT reconstruction..
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