Background and purpose - Iodine-impregnated incision drapes (IIIDs) are used to prevent surgical site infection (SSI). However, there is some evidence to suggest a potential increase in SSI risk as a result of IIID use, possibly from promotion of skin recolonization. A greater number of viable bacteria in the surgical field of an arthroplasty, and surgery in general, may increase the infection risk. We investigated whether IIID use increases bacterial recolonization compared to no drape use under conditions of simulated total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Methods - 20 patients scheduled for TKA were recruited. Each patient had 1 knee randomized for draping with IIID, while the contralateral knee was left bare. The patients thus served as their own control. The operating room conditions and perioperative procedures of a TKA were simulated. Cylinder samples were collected from the skin of each knee prior to disinfection, and again on 2 occasions after skin preparation-75 min apart. Quantities of bacteria were estimated using a spread plate technique under aerobic conditions. Results - We found similar quantities of bacteria on the intervention and control knees immediately after skin disinfection and after 75 min of simulated surgery. These quantities had not increased at the end of surgery when compared to baseline, so no recolonization was detected on the draped knees or on the bare knees. Interpretation - The use of IIIDs did not increase bacterial recolonization in simulated TKA. This study does not support the hypothesis that IIIDs promote bacterial recolonization and postoperative infection risk.