By Rosie D. Lyles, MD, MHA, MSc
Surgical site infections (SSIs) are among the most common and costly healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in the United States.1 However, recent estimates suggest that as many as 55 percent of SSIs could be prevented with current evidence-based strategies2 designed to reduce the risk of infection. The incidence of infection varies from facility to facility, surgeon to surgeon, from one surgical procedure to another and from one patient to another, so it is important to be aware of key risk factors for infection and how best to mitigate them.
Understand the Risks
SSIs occur when surgical sites encounter microbial contamination, therefore prevention methods should focus on reducing the presence and limiting the spread of microorganisms. With this in mind, it is helpful to consider three general types of risk factors for SSIs:
• Host factors – Patient characteristics such as length of preoperative stay, comorbidities, nutritional status and colonization with microorganisms
• Microbial factors – Characteristics such as virulence, antibiotic resistance and adherence
• Surgical/Environmental factors – Operation characteristics, such as perioperative care, surgical technique, patient temperature, duration of surgery and intraoperative contamination
Certain factors like microbial virulence, comorbidities and wound class cannot be helped. However, both healthcare providers and patients have roles to play in modifying several key host and surgical/environmental factors to help reduce the risk of infection.
Contaminants can be introduced to the operating suite through a variety of sources. The patient, healthcare professionals, surgical instruments and other inanimate objects can all introduce infectious material to the surgical field. However, for the vast majority of SSIs, the primary source of bacterial contamination is the patient’s skin.
As a result, a growing body of scientific and clinical studies support preoperative skin cleansing as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent SSIs.3,4,5 Many outpatient and acute-care facilities ask patients to bathe using chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), a fast-acting and persistent antiseptic, prior to surgery, but the benefits of these protocols are reduced if the prescribed bathing regimen is not followed or if the product is not used correctly.
One of the best ways to combat this important risk factor is to support patients at home as they prepare for surgery by making sure they have the information and tools they need to cleanse correctly. The Clorox Healthcare™4% CHG Skin Cleansing Kit gives patients everything they need in one convenient, easy-to-use package to reduce bacteria on the skin prior to surgery. Clear instructions are also very important, which is why each kit includes a bilingual, waterproof instruction card with illustrations and easy-to-read text that can be taken into the shower for reference.
Both frontline healthcare professionals and patients have the potential to make a big difference and improve patient safety using evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of SSIs.
For more information about strategies to reduce the risk of SSIs, visit www.CloroxHealthcare.com/CHGKit.