The guidelines include 13 recommendations for the period before surgery and 16 for preventing infections during and after surgery.
They range from simple precautions such as ensuring that patients bathe or shower before surgery and the best way for surgical teams to clean their hands, to guidance on when to use antibiotics to prevent infections, what disinfectants to use before incision, and which sutures to use.
The guidelines recommend that antibiotics be used to prevent infections before and during surgery only, a crucial measure in stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics should not be used after surgery, as is often done.
“Sooner or later many of us will need surgery, but none of us wants to pick up an infection on the operating table. By applying these new guidelines surgical teams can reduce harm, improve quality of life, and do their bit to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.
“We also recommend that patients preparing for surgery ask their surgeon whether they are following WHO’s advice,” said Ed Kelley, Director of WHO’s Department of Service Delivery and Safety.