Surgical Site Infections (SSIs) were high on the agenda at the 4th International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC) last week in Geneva. And it’s no surprise given the statistics - although no global registry exists to track surgical site infections, health authorities estimate that each year, one in five patients undergoing surgery acquires an infection. It is difficult to calculate the financial burden this places on health systems but NICE has suggested a cost of £700m a year in the UK. Whereas, in the US, the annual cost has been estimated to range from $3.5 billion to$10 billion. What the global cost must be is unknown, but there’s no doubt that it will be high.
And this is an epidemic that knows no boundaries – from the most advanced, specialist healthcare centers to the most basic clinics, from the elderly and infirm to the young and healthy; there is unfortunately, a very real possibility of contracting an SSI.
What’s also shocking is that approximately 50% of SSIs may be preventable. And with this in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued global guidelines on the prevention of SSIs. This was a hotly debated topic of conversation during a symposium, held at last week’s conference – where several leading wound closure specialists came together to discuss the latest advancements and recommendations to ease the burden of SSIs.
One innovation discussed was the use of antibacterial sutures. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests triclosan-coated sutures are an important tool in the fight against SSIs. The WHO has highlighted the use of triclosan-coated sutures across all types of surgery to reduce the risk of SSI, and further support has followed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Surgeons/Surgical Infection Society and EUnetHTA.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent and sutures coated with this agent have been shown to inhibit bacteria commonly associated with surgical site infections, such as the variants of Staphylococcus aureus which are resistant to a range of antimicrobial drugs.
Yet this is just one measure that should be followed across a range of best-practice recommendations, surgical design insights and adherence to checklists. All of these tools must become a consistent part of disciplined surgical practice if we are to limit and eradicate the risk of SSIs, worldwide.
Take a look at this useful infographic from the WHO that outlines some of the measures that can reduce the risk of SSIs. Together, we can tackle this issue and prevent avoidable infections after surgery.