Studies show doctors how to reduce surgical infections

Two new studies published in today's New England Journal of Medicine find that hospitals can prevent costly and deadly infections on patients getting ready to go into surgery, the New York Times reports. 

Screening methods and various other pretreatment practices were shown to have significant effects as far as reducing infection rates of surgery patients. According to the Times, out of all the patients who suffer from post-surgical infections, more than half of those infections originate from bacteria already on those patients' noses or skin. 

In one study, doctors used nasal swabs to test for bacteria--specifically staphylococcus aureus--on patients prior to surgery that would hospitalize them for at least five days. Those patients that carried the bacteria--about 500 in all--then were treated for five days with an antibiotic ointment on their noses, and were told to shower with soap treated with the antiseptic chlorhexidine (in some cases, the surgery took place during the five days of treatment). Those patients were found to be "60 percent less likely" than patients washing with regular soap and using a placebo ointment to develop an infection. 

The second study, which took place at six hospitals nationwide, compared a commonly-used skin disinfectant for patients prior to surgery--povidone-iodine--with one that isn't used as often, chlorhexidine-alcohol. Patients who used the latter disinfectant were found to have gotten "40 percent fewer total infections." 

Marcia Patrick, a nurse and board member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, believes the study proves to be significant to how infection control will be approached going forward. "How can we not do this? It would truly be penny-wise and pound-foolish," she told the Times. "And it's the right thing to do for patients." 

To learn more about the studies:
- read the New York Times' article