Post-Op Infection Rates Low, But Still a Concern

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Surgical site infections after ambulatory surgery rates were low but remain serious issue

February 18, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Surgery can often be a definitive treatment to solve a health issue, but sometimes the operation can lead to a brand new problem, like an infection. A recent study explored rates of infection after surgery in the US.

This study focused on ambulatory surgeries — common procedures that don't typically require hospitalization overnight.

The researchers found that while overall rates of post-operative infections were low, there was still a large number of these infections in the US that needed to be addressed.

"Follow your doctor's directions after surgery."

According to the authors of the study, led by Pamela L. Owens, PhD, of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a governmental agency based in Rockville, Maryland, infections at the site of surgery can result in hospital admission, costly fees and even death in severe cases.

Dr. Owens and team utilized the 2010 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Ambulatory Surgery and State Inpatient Databases to look at surgeries in eight US states: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

This study focused on low- to moderate-risk ambulatory surgeries (including orthopedic, gynecologic and urologic procedures) in patients who had a low risk for complications. Patients were considered "low-risk" if they had no other surgery on the same day, had no infection found on the day of surgery and were sent home afterwards, along with other factors.

In total, 284,098 such surgeries were identified. Dr. Owens and team looked for hospital visits due to surgical site infections 14 days and 30 days after these surgeries.

The researchers saw an overall rate of 3.09 hospital visits for infections per 1,000 surgeries 14 days after surgery and a rate of 4.84 visits per 1,000 surgeries 30 days after surgery.

Around two-thirds (63.7 percent) of all hospital visits for a surgical site infection happened within 14 days of the surgery.

The researchers noted that while overall rates were low, many of the infections had serious results. Of the hospital visits for infections, 93.2 percent required that the patient be admitted to the hospital.

"Among patients in 8 states, the rates of [clinically significant surgical site infections] were relatively low," wrote Dr. Owens and team. "However, given how common ambulatory surgery is, the absolute number of patients with these complications is substantial."

The researchers suggested that strengthening infection control practices at surgery centers might help reduce the number of surgical site infections.

“Infections after surgery are not common, and even less so than in the past, but can still be a mess if they happen to you," said Dr. David Winter, the Chief Clinical Officer, President and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN), a division of Baylor Health Care System.

"Ask your doctor if there are things you can do prior to the procedure to lower your chances of infection. After your operation, promptly report any signs of redness, increased warmth, increasing tenderness or fever. Early treatment of infections can minimize the impact on your recovery,” said Dr. Winter, who was not involved in this study.

This study was published February 18 in JAMA. No conflicts of interest were reported.