Study site and setting: We conducted a randomized controlled single blind trial between November 2017 and February 2018 at the maternity ward of Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH), in southwestern Uganda. The Maternity ward has the following units which were included in the study-antenatal ward, labor ward, and postnatal ward. The facility is government owned and also serves as teaching hospital for Mbarara University Medical School and hosts 12,000 deliveries annually with a catchment population of nine million people, largely rural and peri-urban population.
Standard of care: All mothers scheduled for Cesarean section are given intravenous prophylactic antibiotics, but it’s not a practice for them to have a preoperative bath. Following delivery, and regardless of the mode of delivery, mothers are admitted to the postnatal ward where they are reviewed daily by a physician and given treatment for pain management and for prevention of postpartum infections. The drugs used for post-operative treatment are intravenous antibiotics namely: ceftriaxone, metronidazole and ampicillin while the drugs for pain management include opioids such as pethidine. The physicians manage new patient symptoms as they emerge and appropriately revise their medication as need arises.
Inclusion and exclusion criteria: All women delivering by emergency Cesarean section at MRRH were eligible to participate if they had no obvious evidence of infection such as fever, foul-smelling liquor, or those already on antibiotics for reasons other than preoperative prophylaxis. We also excluded women in whom emergency caesarian delivery was expected to occur within less than 30 minutes such as those with fetal distress, obstructed labor, pulsatile cord prolapse, or ruptured uterus. We also excluded women who could not communicate and give information for the study and those who did not have access to an active cell phone contact for purposes of follow up.
Participant enrollment and randomization: All women who met the inclusion criteria were consecutively enrolled into the study by the mid wife research assistant, who was not part of the clinical team and study participants were enrolled until the sample size was attained. The research assistant obtained written informed consent from each study participant and collected demographic and baseline clinical information using a study tool. Informed consent for the surgery was obtained separately from that for the research. The study participants were then randomly assigned to either the intervention or the control arm based by picking a sealed envelope from the randomization basket. The group of assignment was determined when the envelope was opened and once opened, there was no replacement.
Routine care for all caesarian mothers: All mothers had an intravenous cannula inserted and were administered Ampicillin 2g intravenously for prophylaxis. The women had a blood sample of 3mls drawn for blood grouping and cross matching to secure a unit of blood in case they needed a transfusion. Mothers then received 1 liter of intravenous normal saline, and had a urethral catheter placed for drainage of urine.
Intervention: Women randomized to the intervention arm received a tablet of soap containing chloroxylenol antiseptic and they were asked to use the soap to take a full body bath on the admission ward. The research assistant provided warm water to the participants and she further supervised the bathing process to ensure that the entire body, apart from the hair, had been washed. The bathing process on average lasted twenty minutes. Following the bath, the participants were dressed in a clean theatre gown, and then received pre-operative preparation normally accorded to all mothers scheduled for Caesarean section as a standard of care.
Control arm: Participants randomized to the control group received the routine pre-operative procedures provided to all emergency caesarian section patients as a standard of care. The routine pre-operative care included establishing an intravenous cannula, intravenous normal saline fluids for preloading, intravenous pre-operative antibiotics (ampicillin), informed written consent, blood for grouping and cross matching plus informing theatre staff. If a participant in the control arm requested to have a bath before the operation, they were provided with warm water and a non-medicated soap for their bath. Participants who had a bath with non-medicated soap were still eligible to remain in the control arm.
Follow-up procedures: The research assistant and the ward clinical team in charge of assessment of the patients for clinical outcomes were blinded to the randomization arm of the patients. The patient assessments were conducted daily until the date of discharge. The research assistant used the findings of the ward clinical team to complete the case report forms for the study participants. The ward clinical team asked questions and performed clinical examinations on the participant to assess for evidence of SSI. Participants were asked whether they had severe pain at the incision site. Pain was regarded as severe if the participant reported that the pain stopped her from moving out of bed. Axillary body temperature, radial pulse rate and respiratory rate were measured twice daily. The ward clinical team examined the incision site and assessed for induration (edema or erythema), purulent discharge, and severe tenderness as evidenced by guarding. The temperature of the skin around the incision site was examined and compared with that of the skin remote from the incision site to determine whether it was warmer around the incision site. A ward clinical team member asked to examine the vaginal pad in order to assess the nature of the per-vaginal discharge.
The decision to discharge the participants from hospital was made by the ward clinical team. Upon discharge from the hospital, the participant was given an appointment to return on the 7th post-operative day for follow up. At this visit, they were asked questions and examined, all following the same procedures as those during their admission to evaluate for evidence of SSI. If a participant failed to turn-up for the appointment, they were contacted on phone by a member of the research team and requested to return and for those who were not able, the research assistant would locate their residence and travel there for the follow up.
At the 30th day post-operative, the research assistant followed up the participants through a telephone call and asked them questions about how their health had been from their last visit (7th post-operative day) to the current date. Participants were asked questions about feeling feverish, severe lower abdominal pain, or any discharge from the incision site, or a foul-smelling per-vaginal discharge, or if they had sought medical care from a facility due to issues related to operation site since their last hospital visit. Participants had been given a hotline to call a member of the research team in case they had a medical problem. All participants that met the criteria of SSI at any time were referred to the existing clinical care system in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital for treatment.
Measurements: Data were collected on socio-demographics like age in years, parity, address or village of residence, marital status, educational level, occupation, income, and partner’s factors including income, occupation, and education level. We collected information on obstetric care factors like indication for the Cesarean section, stage of labor, status of membranes, number of digital vaginal examinations done, prophylactic antibiotics (whether given or not, which one given, and how long before the incision was it given), the cadre of the primary surgeon, the cadre of the assistant surgeon, time of the day when the operation was done, length of the operation, skin closure technique, suture material used for closure, a completely filled WHO surgical checklist. We also collected data on history of medical conditions like diabetes mellitus, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and urinary tract infections.
Primary study endpoint: The primary outcome was surgical site infection following Caesarean section delivery, defined as infection involving skin, subcutaneous tissue, fascial layer, muscle or organs, occurring with at least one of the following; 1) Purulent discharge from the incision site 2) Spontaneous wound dehiscence 3) Surgeon deliberately opens the wound when the patient has at least one of the following; pain or tenderness, localized swelling or induration, redness, or heat 4) An abscess or evidence of infection involving the deep incision or organ space found on direct examination, during reoperation, or by ultrasonography 5) Diagnosis of surgical site infection by attending surgeon.
Sample size calculation:
We conducted sample size calculations for randomized controlled trials using the Kelsey et al formula (Kelsey et al., 1996). We estimated the incidence of SSI to be 26% (Arabshahi and Koohpayezade, 2006) and assumed that administration of the pre-CS bath would result in a 75% reduction in incidence of SSI. A sample size of 48 participants per arm would detect such a difference or more with 80% power, using a 5% level of significance.
Data Management and Analysis:
We examined the completed case report forms, screening tools and phone call interview sheets on each day for completeness before storage in a lockable cabinet. The data were then entered into a Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) database (Harris et al., 2009) and later exported to STATA 13.0 software for cleaning and analysis.
In the analysis, baseline characteristics were stratified by intervention arm and summarized using proportions for categorical variables and Chi-square tests were performed to examine whether balance for prognostic factors in the two arms was achieved during the randomization process. Fisher’s exact test was used in case the expected numbers in the cells was less than 5. Continuous variables like age, income, length of operation and others, were categorized and analyzed as other categorical variables. The statistical tests were performed at a level of significance of 0.05.
Our aim was to present the intention to treat analysis as the primary analysis. We compared the incidence proportion of SSI in the intervention and control group, and calculated the relative risk (RR) for SSI in the intervention and control arms. We calculated the risk reduction for SSI in the intervention as 1-RR and computed the 95% confidence interval.