BACKGROUND: Chlorhexidine gluconate is a commonly used and effective antiseptic agent for preparing patients for surgery.
CASE: A healthy premenopausal woman was taken to the operating room for a planned laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy. After vaginal, vulvar, perineal, and abdominal cleansing with chlorhexidine gluconate, the patient developed a desquamating vaginal reaction that was treated with intravenous corticosteroids, antihistamine, topical conjugated estrogen, and hydrocortisone cream. The planned surgery was aborted, and the patient recovered uneventfully overnight in the postanesthesia care unit. With continued application of conjugated estrogen cream, the patient's vaginal mucosa was well healed within 2 weeks.
CONCLUSION: Although chlorhexidine gluconate has been used effectively to minimize surgical site infection in vaginal surgery, the possibility for adverse reaction should be considered.