Health Beat: Project joints: Swiping away surgical infections

Health Beat: Swiping away surgical infections

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - They go in hoping surgery will fix their problem, but they come out with a potentially deadly dilemma. Every year, 300,000 Americans get a surgical site infection. A recent report found they're the most common health care-associated infections in the U.S. Now, a new prevention program is helping cut those numbers.

Marilyn Fedor had a bad hip, so she got a new one.

Due to the fact bacteria that's already on a patient's skin can get into an incision and cause infections, doctors started prepping Fedor for surgery 14 days before the operation.

If hip and knee replacement patients get an SSI, Dr. Brian Tonne said typically their implant has to be taken out and they're put on IV antibiotics.

Tonne, an orthopedic traumatologist and joint reconstruction doctor at the University Of Tennessee Medical Center, said it "typically takes six to eight weeks before that joint replacement can then be put back in."

Now, "project joints" is reducing that risk. Patients go through an educational class before their hip or knee replacement. Then, "they receive a nasal swab; we can then find out if they carry staph bacteria," Tonne explained.

For the final three days before surgery, patients use a special anti-bacterial anti-septic soap.

"You scrub your whole body down from the neck down and then they said to do your leg, my bad leg for three minutes," Fedor said.

And clippers are used at the surgical site instead of razors to help keep bacteria out of the body.

The University Of Tennessee Medical Center's infection rate for knee and hip replacements was almost two percent before project joints. Now, "it has dropped to approximately point-five percent, Tonne said.

Project joints is currently in hospitals in eight states and is expanding to facilities in five more states. The doctor said the program is only being used for patients getting hip and knee replacements, but the goal is to use it in other joint replacements and orthopedic procedures.

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