The End of Soapy Bedbaths?

Research suggests that chlorhexidine may be best for acutely ill patients.

In an "Ask the Experts" section of the Medscape Nurses' website, Ruth M. Kleinpell, PhD, RN responded to the question of how to best bathe hospitalized patients. Nurses who have been practicing for a while are all familiar with the usual practice of filling a hospital-issued plastic container (usually pale pink in color) with water and using a bar of soap to cleanse patients confined to bed. Dr. Kleinpell notes that there is growing evidence to support the use of chlorhexidine to decrease colonization rates of potentially harmful pathogens, especially for patients who are acutely or critically ill. Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic solution with broad antiseptic activity, is already being routinely used as a pre-op cleanser and agent for cleaning venipuncture and central venous catheter insertion sites. It's also being used as a mouth rinse. Chlorhexidine binds to proteins in the skin and oral mucosa and exerts its antimicrobial action in these areas at risk for infection. Dr. Kleinpell noted that data on possible disadvantages of using chlorhexidine are lacking and more research is need to determine if risks exist.