A Prospective, Randomized Pilot Evaluation of
Topical Triple Antibiotic Versus Mupirocin for
the Prevention of Uncomplicated Soft Tissue
Wound Infection
ROBERT HOOD, MD,* KENNETH M. SHERMOCK, PHARMD,† Little data exists comparing the safety and efficacy of triple antibiotic
itracin zinc, and polymixin B sulfate) or placebo petrolatum ointment (TAO) and mupirocin for prevention of uncomplicated soft
ointment, there was a lower rate of infection in the TAO tissue wound infections. The purpose of this investigation was to con-
group (4.5%) when compared with the control group duct a pilot study of the relative safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness
(17.6% P ϭ .0034).5 Mupirocin ointment (pseudomonic of the 2 preparations. This was a randomized, prospective, interventional
study to determine the difference in infection rates of uncomplicated soft

acid A) has been shown to be highly effective against tissue wounds between subjects treated with TAO and mupirocin oint-
normal skin pathogens such as Staphylococcus and Strep- ment after standard wound care and suturing. Subjects were enrolled at
tococcus6 and has been used extensively to treat impetigo7-9 presentation to the ED if they met the study inclusion criteria and were
as well as Staphylococcus aureus-infected nipples.10 required to make one follow-up visit to the ED to determine the status of
There is little information comparing the relative safety their wound (infected vs. not infected). A total of 99 patients were en-
and efficacy of TAO and mupirocin when used as prophy- rolled and assessed at the follow-up visit. The groups had similar rates
of self-reported compliance with wound care and dressing changes.

laxis for uncomplicated soft tissue wounds. These results Patients in the mupirocin group had a greater rate of signs of infection
are important because there is a cost difference between the (12% vs. 6.1%), and infection (4% vs. 0%) compared with patients in the
available formulations and there have been concerns around TAO group, although neither difference achieved statistical significance.
sensitization with TAO. The purpose of this investigation There were no serious adverse effects in either group. This pilot study
was to conduct a pilot study of the relative safety and found a similar rate of wound infection and adverse events between TAO
and mupirocin ointments. Results should be confirmed in a larger equiv-
alency trial. (Am J Emerg Med 2004;22:1-3.
2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Soft tissue wounds are a common ED complaint. Al- Board. The study was designed to enroll 120 patients with though many injuries do well with appropriate cleansing the expectation that there would be a 20% dropout rate. The and debridment, some become infected. Factors related to inclusion criteria were uncomplicated soft tissue wound wound infection include the mechanism of injury, the within the last 24 hours and willingness to return within 7 amount of tissue damage, the presence of contaminants, the days for reevaluation. There was no limitation on underly- location of the wound, comorbid medical conditions, and ing medical conditions. This study was intended as a pilot the age of the wound. Previous studies have found a varying study to determine the necessity and feasibility of a larger rate of wound infection after ED treatment from 4.5% to 6.3%.1-4 Topical antibiotic preparations are approved for The exclusion criteria included puncture wounds, under- use to prevent wound infection, although only limited in- lying fracture, use of antibiotics within the last 7 days, formation is available comparing the agents and their effec- known allergy to the study agents, wounds closed with Dermabond, wounds which, in the opinion of the treating In a prospective study comparing infection rates between physician, required use of oral or parenteral antibiotics, and wounds treated in a prophylactio manner with triple antibi- wounds that were found to be infected at the time of otic ointment (TAO; combination of neomycin sulfate, bac- presentation. Patients who did not completely comply withstudy procedures but for whom follow-up data were avail-able are included in the study. Initial wound management, From the *Departments of Emergency Medicine, Cleveland Clinic including the choice of glove type, cleansing solution, irri- Foundation and Metro Health Medical Center, and the †Department gation, and anesthetic, was at the discretion of the treating of Pharmacy, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio.
Received January 16, 2003; accepted January 16, 2003.
The study medication was prepared by the hospital phar- Supported by a grant from Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.
Address reprint requests to Charles L. Emerman, MD, Depart- macy and dispensed in a coded tube with all other identi- ment of Emergency Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 fying information removed. The patient, treating physician, Euclid Avenue, E-19, Cleveland, OH 44195. E-mail: and study investigators were blinded to the identity of the Key Words: Infection, wound care, antibiotic therapy, prophylaxis.
study medication. After informed consent was obtained, all 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
0735-6757/04/2201-0001$30.00/0 patients enrolled in the study underwent standard wound care and repair procedures, followed by the initial applica- AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE ■ Volume 22, Number 1 ■ January 2004 Demographic and Wound Characteristic Data This study was conducted between August and December 2001 enrolling 120 patients. Twenty-one patients were lost to follow up, leaving 99 patients available for data analysis.
The average age of the patients was 24.7 Ϯ 17.8 years and 72.7% of the patients were male. A total of 42.4% of the patients were under the age of 18. Three (3%) of the patients had a history of diabetes. Forty-six patients had full-thick- ness wounds requiring repair. These characteristics were not significantly different between the 2 groups except that the mupirocin group was slightly older than the TAO group (27.7 y vs. 21.6 y, P ϭ .09). The patients reported similar pain scores before treatment (Table 1).
Eighty patients reported full compliance with study pro- cedures (Table 2). The groups had similar rates of self- reported compliance with wound care and dressing changes.
Nine patients had predetermined possible signs of infection as assessed by the study nurses, whereas 2 of these patients were diagnosed with a wound infection by the treating physician (Table 2), Mild erythema was noted in 8 of the 9 patients, whereas 1 patient had a small amount of purulent drainage. There was no significant difference in rate ofwound infection between the groups.
Abbreviation: SD, standard deviation.
One patient in the TAO group reported paraesthesia around the wound. The mean post-period pain score was tion of the randomly assigned topical ointment. They were higher in the mupirocin group compared with the TAO then discharged with a blinded supply of study medication group (0.44 vs. 0.15, P ϭ .07).
and written instructions for use. Subjects were instructed to Because no difference was detected between the drug apply the ointment to the wounds 3 times per day until the groups in infection rate, the cost-effectiveness analysis was reduced to a cost-minimization analysis (simple comparison The primary end point was the presence of infection of cost). Neither of the 2 infections were judged to requiretreatment. Therefore, the cost analysis is a comparison of within 7 days. This was determined by evaluating for fever, the cost of medication. The average wholesale prices erythema, edema, induration, swelling, warmth, exudate, (AWP) for a 22-g tube of bacitracin-neomycin-polymycin B adenopathy, and lymphangitis. The wounds were all graded (Bactroban) is $41.00 ($1.86/g) and for a 28-g tube of and evaluated by 1 of 2 trained research nurses with phy- mupirocin (Neosporin) is $6.95 ($0.25/g). Bactroban costs sician oversight. The wounds were graded as follows: grade $34.05 more than Neosporin and was not associated with a 0, no sign of infection; grade 1, simple stitch abscess; grade detectable difference in preventing infection or signs of 2, surrounding cellulitis Ͻ 1 cm; grade 3, accompanying lymphangitis and/or lymphadenitis; and grade 4, systemicsymptoms. The secondary outcomes were pain associated DISCUSSION
with the wound evaluated by having the patient’s rate their This pilot study found a similar rate of wound infection pain on a visual analog scale and a safety assessment and adverse events between the TAO and mupirocin-treated looking for adverse events associated with study medication groups for simple soft tissue wounds. The wound infection rate in this study overall was low compared with that The difference in infection rates between patients in the 2 reported historically. This could represent patient selection medication groups and other categorical variables were an- bias, good initial wound management, or the effectiveness alyzed with a Chi-squared test of proportions or Fisher exact of topical antibiotic treatment for soft tissue wounds.
test. Continuous variables were analyzed using a Studentt-test for normally distributed data and the Wilcoxon ranksum test for nonparametric data.
Compliance With Wound Care and Infection Rates A marginal cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted with costs and effectiveness calculated from the payer per- spective.11 Medication and follow-up care in the event of an infection were considered as costs. The unit of effectiveness was the rate of infection-free wounds. If the groups were not statistically different in terms of outcome, the cost analysis became a cost-minimization analysis, a simple comparison of average cost between the 2 groups. Sensitivity analysis was conducted by varying all cost estimates to determine the effect of such variation on the results of the cost-effectiveness analysis.
Abbreviation: SD, standard deviation.
tion in ED patients. Generally, the rates are very low forwounds that are not grossly contaminated and have received This pilot study found a similar rate of wound infection, appropriate irrigation, cleansing, and debridement before pain attenuation, and adverse events between TAO and repair. This low inherent rate of infection in simple soft mupirocin ointment. If confirmed in a larger trial, this would tissue wounds means that studies designed to detect differ- suggest that the less expensive and over-the-counter TAO ences between treatments require very large sample sizes.
can be recommended for prophylaxis following uncompli- In a recent study, Langford and workers treated 177 minor soft tissue injuries using a topical antibiotic prepara-tion (cetrimide, bacitracin, and polymyxin B sulfate), pov-idone iodine 10% w/v, or hydroxypropyl methylcellulose REFERENCES
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