Pre-operative washing of the hands and forearms is intended to remove dirt, desquamating epidermis, ‘transient’ contaminating organisms, and as many ‘resident’ bacteria as possible. In addition to the normally harmless bacteria commonly found on the skin certain pathogens can colonise minimally damaged skin1 and in some individuals Staph. aureus appears to colonise normal skin. Such organisms can readily reach the operation wound, since surgical gloves often become punctured and conventional gowns are poor barriers to bacteria from the forearm.
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