Vaginal preparation with chlorhexidine at cesarean section to reduce endometritis and prevent sepsis: a randomized pilot trial (preps)

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External organisations

  • Birmingham City University


Introduction: Cesarean sections are the most common major operation worldwide. One in 10 women develops a surgical-site infection after cesarean section. The PREPS pilot trial was developed to assess the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial of vaginal cleansing with chlorhexidine before cesarean section, to reduce infectious morbidity. Material and methods: A multi-center, open-label, parallel-group pilot randomized controlled trial across 4 UK maternity units. Women aged ≥16 years, undergoing elective or emergency cesarean section, ≥34 weeks of gestation, and able to give informed consent were eligible. Women were randomized 1:1 to chlorhexidine 0.05% or no cleansing and were followed up until 6 weeks after cesarean section. The feasibility of a larger randomized controlled trial was assessed by the pilot trial’s recruitment, ability to use verbal consent in an emergency, adherence, follow-up and withdrawal rates. The main clinical outcome collected was Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classification of endometritis at 30 days. Trial registration number is ISRCTN33435996. Results: A total of 320 women (128% of target) were randomized. Of these, 93% (95% CI 89%-95%) received their allocated intervention. Of the 88 women who had an emergency cesarean section, verbal consent was initially given by 32 (36%) women, with the remainder having sufficient time to give written consent. Endometritis (CDC definition) was collected from medical notes of 96% of women, 68% (95% CI 63%-73%) were followed up at both 14 and 30 days by telephone, and we were able to collect patient-reported outcomes. In the vaginal cleansing arm 2/152 (1.3%) women had endometritis compared with 1/155 (0.7%) in the no cleansing arm (RR 2.08, 95% CI 0.19-22.31). Conclusions: It is possible to perform a randomized controlled trial in women undergoing an elective or emergency cesarean section, using a verbal-followed-by-written consent process, while maintaining high adherence and retaining women in the trial.


Original languageEnglish
JournalActa obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica
Early online date8 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Oct 2019


  • sepsis, endometritis, surgical wound infection, vaginal douching, chlorhexidine, pilot projects, cesarean section