Surgical site infections around the globe are quite common and can pose a threat to life if not taken seriously.
As this has become a matter of great concern, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken it upon itself to create awareness about surgical site hygiene and has issued new guidelines saying that, antibiotics should be used to prevent infections before and during surgery and not afterwards.
These guidelines aim to save lives, cut costs and arrest the spread of superbugs, the WHO said on Thursday.
Noting that surgical site infections threaten millions of lives and contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance, WHO said in low and middle-income countries, 11% of patients who undergo surgery are infected in the process. The guidelines also said people preparing for surgery should always have a bath or shower but should not be shaved.
The global guidelines for the prevention of surgical site infection include a list of 29 concrete recommendations distilled by 20 of the world’s leading experts from 26 reviews of the latest evidence. The recommendations were also published on Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and are designed to address the increasing burden of healthcare-associated infections on both patients and healthcare systems globally.
“No one should get sick while seeking or receiving care. Preventing surgical infections has never been more important but it is complex and requires a range of preventive measures. These guidelines are an invaluable tool for protecting patients,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant, director general for health systems and innovation. surgical site infections are caused by bacteria that get in through incisions made during surgery and they threaten the lives of millions of patients each year and contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance.
“In low and middle income countries, 11% of patients who undergo surgery are infected in the process. In Africa, up to 20% of women who have a caesarean section contract a wound infection, compromising their own health and their ability to care for their babies,” WHO said.
The new WHO guidelines are safe to follow for any country, including India, and suitable to local adaptations and take account of the strength of available scientific evidence, the cost and resource implications, and patient values and preferences.
The guidelines include 13 recommendations for the period before surgery and 16 for preventing infections during and after surgery. They range from simple precautions such as ensuring that patients bathe or shower before surgery and the best way for surgical teams to clean their hands, to guidance on when to use antibiotics to prevent infections, what disinfectants to use before incision, and which sutures to use.
The guidelines recommend that antibiotics be used to prevent infections before and during surgery only, a crucial measure in stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics should not be used after surgery, as is often done.
“Sooner or later many of us will need surgery, but none of us wants to pick up an infection on the operating table. By applying these new guidelines surgical teams can reduce harm, improve quality of life, and do their bit to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance. We also recommend that patients preparing for surgery ask their surgeon whether they are following WHO’s advice,” said Ed Kelley, director of WHO’s department of service delivery and safety.
(With agency inputs)