Reuse of Surgical Masks During the COVID-19 Shortage: Association with the Incidence of Surgical Site Infections


The association between the reuse of surgical masks (SMs) for multiple procedures and rates of surgical site infections (SSIs) is unclear. Hence, the purpose of this study was to determine whether a policy mandating the reuse of SMs was associated with increased SSI incidence. It was hypothesized the rate of SSIs would be significantly greater during the postimplementation period compared with the preimplementation period. Retrospective chart review of patients who underwent orthopaedic and general surgery during the 60 days before and after policy implementation was performed. Focus was on consecutive procedures performed by the same surgeon on the same day. An assessment of SSI risk factors suggested the postimplementation group was at higher risk. However, the daily use of a single SM across multiple procedures was not associated with a clinically signifi cant increase in SSIs. Because future pandemics and public health crises may be accompanied by similar shortages, it may be possible to reuse masks in these situations without concern for increased SSI. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 33(2):097-102, 2024)

Key words: surgical site infections, surgical masks, surgical attire, COVID-19, PPE shortages

Zsombor T. Gal, BS; Ashley Y. Albano, BA; David C. Landy, MD, PhD; Arun Aneja, MD, PhD; and Arjun Srinath, MD, MPH