The traffic in a standard operating room won’t increase the likelihood of a patient developing a surgical site infection.

Even in the U.S., where medical practices have plenty of oversight, surgical site infections are still a problem for patients everywhere. According to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 157,500 SSIs diagnosed in 2011 alone. SSIs have an overall mortality rate of 3 percent, and these harmful microbials are directly responsible for 75 percent of all deaths in patients with an SSI.

One reason for the prevalence of SSIs could be the operating room itself. According to a 2015 study in the journal Orthopedics, more people in an OR can increase a patient’s risk of infection. Specifically, a greater number of door openings and airflow can give these nasty infections a fighting chance. However, new research might counter this study entirely.

New perspectives on SSIs

As General Surgery News reported, a new retrospective case control trial from a team at the Mayo Clinic found that a greater number of OR personnel won’t raise a patient’s risk of infection. The trial was presented in late July 2016 during the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists PostGraduate Assembly in Anesthesiology.

Using patient intraoperative records and data from the Mayo Clinic’s own Division of Infection Control SSI database, the Mayo team created a list of SSIs from a number of different surgical specialties, including general, orthopedic and vascular. In all, there were 722 cases compared to a control group of 2,389 non-SSI cases.

Even after correcting the data for patient medical history and varying operational times, the team found that more OR personnel is “not a strong risk factor for SSI.” They did, however, find, that orthopedic surgeries had the highest rate of SSIs with almost 50 percent. The next closest figures were general operations with 19 percent and neurosurgery with 12 percent. As part of the experiment, the Mayo scientists also divided the OR personnel into 3 groups:

  • The surgical scrubbed group of surgeons, technicians and fellows.
  • A non-scrubbed group of nurses and recorders.
  • The anesthesia providers.

The researchers found that there was no difference in the number of SSIs between the groups.

Brendan T. Wanta was the study’s lead author. He told GSN that he and the team recognized that this data contrasts previous research. However, he explained that it proves more research must be conducted into this phenomenon. In the meantime, patients must be prepared in case of an SSI. That means recognizing the signs – fever, chills, swelling, pain, and skin redness – and ensuring proper home care with regular dressing changes and effective hygiene.

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