Treatment of Cardiac Surgical Wounds with Silver Dressings


  • Ashlie A. Elver
  • Katy Wirtz, RN, BSN
  • Jinxiang Hu, Ph.D.
  • Emmanuel Daon, M.D.



surgical wound infection, mediastinitis, cardiac surgical procedures, standard of care, postoperative


Introduction. Mediastinitis is a deadly surgical site infection (SSI) after cardiac surgery. Although rare, mortality is as high as 47%. Best practices for infection prevention to eliminate this deadly complication must be identified. Surgical dressings impregnated with silver have been shown to reduce SSIs in other surgical specialties. This aim of this study is to determine if the routine use of silver surgical dressings is beneficial to prevent mediastinitis after cardiac surgery.

Methods. A single-center retrospective study was performed on patients who underwent sternotomy from 2016 to 2018 at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Prior to June 2017, all cardiac surgical patients were treated with gauze surgical dressings and is designated Group A. The routine use of silver-impregnated surgical dressings was implemented in June 2017, patients after this change in practice are designated Group B. Patient characteristics and rates of deep and superficial sternal wound infections (SWI) were compared. 

Results. There were 464 patients in Group A and 505 in Group B. There were seven SWIs in Group A (7/464, 1.5%) and five in Group B (5/505, 1%; p = 0.57). Of these, there was one deep SWI per group (p = 0.61) and six superficial SWIs in Group A compared to four in Group B (p = 0.74). Severe COPD was higher in Group A (p = 0.04) and peak glucose was higher in Group B (p = 0.02). 

Conclusions.The analysis conferred no benefit with silver-impregnated surgical dressings to prevent mediastinitis. Choice of gauze surgical dressings may be preferable to reduce cost.






Original Research