Neurosurgery and shaving: what’s the evidence?. A review

Journal of Neurosurgery Oct 2011 / Vol. 115 / No. 4 / Pages 670-678. DOI: 10.3171/2011.5.JNS102003.

Many neurosurgeons remove their patients’ hair before surgery. They claim that this practice reduces the chance of postoperative surgical site infections, and facilitates planning, attachment of the drapes, and closure. However, most patients dread this procedure.

The authors performed the first systematic review on shaving before neurosurgical procedures to investigate whether this commonly performed procedure is based on evidence. They systematically reviewed the literature on wound infections following different shaving strategies. Data on the type of surgery, surgery-related infections, preoperative shaving policy, decontamination protocols, and perioperative antibiotics protocols were collected.

The search detected 165 articles, of which 21 studies—involving 11,071 patients—were suitable for inclusion. Two of these studies were randomized controlled trials. The authors reviewed 13 studies that reported on the role of preoperative hair removal in craniotomies, 14 on implantation surgery, 5 on bur hole procedures, and 3 on spine surgery. Nine studies described shaving policies in pediatric patients.

None of these papers provided evidence that preoperative shaving decreases the occurrence of postoperative wound infections. The authors conclude that there is no evidence to support the routine performance of preoperative hair removal in neurosurgery. Therefore, properly designed studies are needed to provide evidence for preoperative shaving recommendations.