A 'Rule' Without Foundation

Tue, 05/29/2012 - 5:48am

The practice of medicine often involves “rules” that are not based on fact or evidence. Many of them are justified in a manner similar to that which we use with our children—“because.” The rationale for some rules is “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

How about a rule prohibiting the clipping of hair in the operating room? My hospital has decided that if hair is to be clipped, it must be done before the patient arrives in the OR. One reason for this is said to be prevention of infection by loose hair.

Wait a second. It is generally agreed that the fewest wound infections result when patients are not shaved or clipped at all. If that is so (and the evidence is convincing), then why would hair cause a problem if loose? I am not aware of any data that supports the claim that clipping hair in the OR causes wound infections.

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