Skin disinfection practice before skin anaesthesia, prior to neuraxial blockade: a survey of government hospital practices in South Africa

  • D F Coetzee University of Stellenbosch
  • A Senekal
  • P A Scheepers
Keywords: anaesthesia, local anaesthetic agent, neuraxial block, aseptic technique, guidelines


Background: Infectious complications following neuraxial block, although being of low incidence, may lead to morbidity and mortality. Two common methods utilised for skin disinfection before skin anaesthesia prior to a neuraxial block are the isopropanol only method (isopropanol method) and the full aseptic technique (classic method). The objective of this study was to survey government-employed South African anaesthesiologists’ preference regarding the disinfection practices before the administration of local anaesthetic agents to the skin prior to the performance of a neuraxial block.

Methods: Ethics approval was obtained prior to commencing the study. An electronic, web-based questionnaire in the form of a survey was distributed to various anaesthetic departments in various government teaching hospitals in South Africa. Descriptive statistics were used on the raw data using the Fisher exact test to measure associations between the different categorical variables.

Results: A significant response rate of 60.3% was achieved. Regarding subarachnoid blocks, more than half of the participants (52.0%) that participated in the survey utilise the isopropanol method whereas less than half of the participants utilise the isopropanol method when performing an epidural block. Close to 75% of participants with zero to five years anaesthetic experience prefer the isopropanol method whilst only 20.9% of anaesthetists with more than ten years’ experience prefer the isopropanol method when performing a subarachnoid block (p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Both methods described in this study (classic and isopropanol methods) are practised commonly by the participants in the survey and neither the classic nor the isopropanol method dominates. Local guidelines need to address the technique used to disinfect the skin before the administration of the local anaesthetic agent to the skin prior to performing a neuraxial block.

Author Biographies

D F Coetzee, University of Stellenbosch

Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Tygerberg, South Africa

A Senekal

Private Practice, Stellenbosch

P A Scheepers

Private Practice, Stellenbosch

Original Research