Source: Consumers Union, April 23, 2009
Surgery patients are at risk for infection because surgical incisions create a pathway for germs to enter the body. Maintaining a sterile environment in the operating room is therefore critical to
protect patients from being contaminated with bacteria, which can lead to infection.
In addition, research shows that the risk of surgical site infections can be reduced if patients are
given the appropriate antibiotic within one hour before the first surgical incision is made, depending on the type of surgery and patient characteristics. Another practice, discontinuing
antibiotics within 24 hours after the surgery, is critical to reducing overuse of antibiotics and
antibiotic resistance, a major problem in treating infections. These practices have been identified
by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as key to decreasing the incidence of
surgical infections. CMS reports hospitals’ compliance levels with these practices on its
Hospital Compare website.
An estimated 40 to 60 percent of all surgical site infections could be prevented by following
these and other infection prevention measures.7 Other measures found to reduce the incidence of surgical infections include appropriate hair removal for surgical patients (using clippers instead
of razors to avoid creating cuts in the skin, which can allow bacteria to enter the body); keeping
patients warm during surgery; and maintaining proper serum glucose levels after surgery.8 These
last two measures have recently been added to the Hospital Compare site but are not included in