Is sterile better than aseptic? Comparing the microbiology of acellular dermal matrices

Gabriel M. Klein, Ahmed E. Nasser, Brett T. Phillips, Robert P. Gersch, Mitchell S. Fourman, Sarit E. Lilo, Jason R. Fritz, Sami U. Khan, Alexander B. Dagum, Duc T. Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Postoperative infections are a major complication associated with tissue-expander-based breast reconstruction. The use of acellular dermal matrix (ADM) in this surgery has been identified as a potential reservoir of infection, prompting the development of sterile ADM. Although aseptic and sterile ADMs have been investigated, no study has focused on the occurrence and clinical outcome of bacterial colonization before implantation. Methods: Samples of aseptic AlloDerm, sterile Ready-To-Use AlloDerm, and AlloMax were taken before implantation. These samples were incubated in Tryptic soy broth overnight before being streaked on Trypticase soy agar, MacConkey agar, and 5% blood agar plates for culture and incubated for 48 hours. Culture results were cross-referenced with patient outcomes for 1 year postoperatively. Results: A total of 92 samples of ADM were collected from 63 patients. There were 15 cases of postoperative surgical site infection (16.3%). Only 1 sample of ADM (AlloMax) showed growth of Escherichia coli, which was likely a result of contamination. That patient did not develop any infectious sequelae. Patient outcomes showed no difference in the incidence of seroma or infection between sterile and aseptic ADMs. Conclusions: This study evaluates the microbiology of acellular dermal matrices before use in breast reconstruction. No difference was found in the preoperative bacterial load of either aseptic or sterile ADM. No significant difference was noted in infection or seroma formation. Given these results, we believe aseptic processing used on ADMs is equivalent to sterile processing in our patient cohort in terms of clinical infection and seroma occurrence postoperatively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere761
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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