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Does Preoperative Scalp Shaving Result in Fewer Postoperative Wound Infections When Compared With No Scalp Shaving? A Systematic Review

Sebastian, Sherly

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: June 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 3 - p 149–156
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e31825106d2

ABSTRACT Preoperative scalp shaving has been a well-established practice among neurosurgeons based on the belief that hair removal prevents postoperative infections. Apart from aiding in improved visualization of the incision line, ease of closure, and dressing application, there are concerns that the presence of hair at the surgical site may interfere with the surgical procedure. Preoperative scalp shaving is a controversial practice, and many neurosurgeons are moving toward not removing any hair or clipping minimal hair along the incision line rather than shaving the scalp. The following is a systematic review of articles related to preoperative scalp shaving before cranial surgeries and the implications for postoperative wound infections. Eighteen articles were identified as potentially relevant based on the search criteria. These articles were selected based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria to provide concise background information and an explanation of scalp-shaving practices in neurosurgery leading to the clinical question posed. An evidence table was compiled to organize the study data and identify key points. The review brings strong evidence that preoperative scalp shaving does not confer any benefit against postoperative wound infection and, paradoxically, may lead to higher rates of infection. Because hair removal neither contributes benefits to the surgery itself nor decreases the risk of wound infection but has considerable cosmetic value for the patient, many of the authors recommended that cranial surgeries should be done without hair shaving.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Sherly Sebastian, DNP RN NP-C CCRN CNRN, at She is a neurosurgery nurse practitioner at the Department of Neurosurgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses