Surgeons Can Do More to Reduce the Risk of Infection

Recently Alberta surgeons were surveyed to determine if they followed four evidence based recommendations aimed at reducing surgical site infections. The guidelines were issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 1999. Three that are accepted as essential practice ask surgeons and their team members to:

Remove body hair, if necessary, with clippers, not razors.

Clean skin with antiseptic products in a prescribed (circular) manner before making an incision.

Ensure antibiotics given before surgery to lower infection risks are timed appropriately.

These infections account for almost a fifth of hospital acquired infections yet of the 42 per cent of physicians who responded to the survey many did not follow these protocols. Thirty two per cent of physicians used a razor and not clippers to remove body hair. Astoundingly nearly one in every three patients are thereby at risk of increased infection by the entry of bacteria into the nicks and scrapes caused by razors. In practice this results in a five per cent increase in the rate of surgical site infection. Similarly a third of surgeons did not apply antiseptic agents in an outwardly circular motion as suggested but simply wiped back and forth.More information may be found in the report of the study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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