Study Shows Majority of Surgical Site Infections Stem From Bacteria Acquired Before Patient Enters Hospital

April 15, 2024
The research may point new ways forward in preventing surgical site infections, emphasizing patient-based evaluation

A new study shows that the majority of surgical site infections emerging after major spine surgery “come from bacteria already on the patients’ bodies before they enter the hospital.”

The researchers used genetic tests to determine where these surgical site infections came from. 86% of the infections they monitored “started from strains of bacteria carried by the patient prior to surgery.” Dr. Dustin Long, the paper’s lead author and an anesthesiologist and critical-care physician, emphasized that this “just reveals the fact that we don’t have clarity in this area.” He also stated that, currently, the focus on preventing these infections is on “the sterility of the hospital environment” and not the patients individually.

Unlike other complications, which have reduced over time, the prevalence of surgical site infections “have improved little in recent decades.” Long and his colleagues decided to look specifically at spine surgery because it is “performed on similar numbers of men and women and across their lifespans.” Currently, site infection happens in about 1 in 30 procedures.

The research team “examined skin, nasal, and rectal samples from more than 200 patients whose procedures involved the implanting of devices, and wound-infection samples from a group of 1,400 patients who underwent various spine surgeries.” The team also mapped areas of the body where certain bacteria tend to congregate.

UW Medicine’s website has the news release.

About the Author

Matt MacKenzie | Associate Editor

Matt is Associate Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.