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New Study on Reduction of Surgical Site Infections

Technology in the form of text messages, email or voicemail may play a critical role in reducing surgical site infections (SSIs) acquired during or after an operation, according to new study. Researchers examined the advantages of an electronic patient alert system (EAS) for reminding patients of specific pre-operative directions, such as showering with 4 percent chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) – a powerful antiseptic that helps to diminish chances of wound infection.

The findings were published online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons this April. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin analyzed four clinical groups, made up of 80 test subjects. Two groups consisted of volunteers, the first of which were asked to take two separate showers with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) solution. The second voluntary group was asked to take three antiseptic showers 24 to 48 hours before hospital admission.

Study on surgical site infection rates

Some of the study participants in both groups were sent electronic messages via email, text or voicemail, to remind them to shower. The results indicate that electronic patient alerts were effective in enhancing patient compliance with a pre hospital admission showering protocol, resulting in a noteworthy (p < 0.007) increase in skin-surface concentrations of CHG versus non-EAS controls.  Chlorhexidine gluconate lowers the number of microbes on the skin’s surface, thus lessening the risk of wound contamination during surgery.

Of all 80 participants, more than two-thirds of the patients preferred text messages over voicemail or email alerts.

“I think a study like this provides us with a tremendous opportunity to empower patients because it clearly makes them an intimate partner in the whole health care experience,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Charles E. Edmiston.

It is hoped that this research will help prompt the development of more standard pre-op procedures which may help reduce the rate of surgical site and hospital infections.

Hospital acquired infections both costly and preventable

According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on any given day one in every 25 hospital patients has no less than one healthcare-associated infection. Hospital infections are often deemed preventable events that cost our health care system an estimated $10 billion each year.

Based on 2012 information, the most prevalent types of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. acute care hospitals include:

  • Urinary tract infections associated with catheter insertions
  • Clostridium difficile infections
  • Surgical site infections
  • Central line infections of the bloodstream

Data suggests that almost 100,000 American patients die annually from HAIs, including surgical site infections, which can cost the patient upwards of $21,000.

Patients most at risk for hospital infections

While all patients admitted to hospital are at risk of developing some form of HAI, certain groups are more susceptible than others.

The following are most vulnerable to contracting an HAI:

  • Minors – including very ill children and infants born prematurely
  • Elderly  – patients age 60 and older
  • Patients with preexisting medical conditions like Type 2 diabetes
  • Those who have a compromised immune system, such as patients who are on chemo treatments or are taking corticosteroids

Additionally, this risk is compounded greatly the longer a patient’s hospital stay, which can expose one to multiple illnesses and diseases.