The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 32, Issue 3, 728 - 734.e1

Decreased Hospital Costs and Surgical Site Infection Incidence With a Universal Decolonization Protocol in Primary Total Joint Arthroplasty

Stambough, Jeffrey B. et al.
Hip Knee


Staphylococcus aureus colonization has been identified as a key modifiable risk factor in the reduction of surgical site infections (SSI) related to elective total joint arthroplasty (TJA). We investigated the incidence of SSIs and cost-effectiveness of a universal decolonization protocol without screening consisting of nasal mupirocin and chlorhexidine before elective TJA compared to a program in which all subjects were screened for S aureus and selectively treated if positive.


We reviewed 4186 primary TJAs from March 2011 through July 2015. Patients were divided into 2 cohorts based on the decolonization regimen used. Before May 2013, 1981 TJA patients were treated under a “screen and treat” program while the subsequent 2205 patients were treated under the universal protocol. We excluded the 3 months around the transition to control for treatment bias. Outcomes of interest included SSI and total hospital costs.


With a universal decolonization protocol, there was a significant decrease in both the overall SSI rate (5 vs 15 cases; 0.2% vs 0.8%; P = .013) and SSIs caused by S aureus organisms (2 vs 10; 0.09% vs 0.5%; P = .01). A cost analysis accounting for the cost to administer the universal regimen demonstrated an actual savings of $717,205.59. TJA complicated by SSI costs 4.6× more to treat than that of an uncomplicated primary TJA.


Our universal decolonization paradigm for elective TJA is effective in reducing the overall rate of SSIs and promoting economic gains for the health system related to the downstream savings accrued from limiting future reoperations and hospitalizations.

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