WHO guidelines take aim at surgical infections, superbugs
- The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines aimed at saving lives and cutting healthcare costs by reducing the incidence of some hospital-associated infections.
- The 29 recommendations, based on evidence reviews by an expert team, include 13 for the presurgical period and 16 for during and after surgery.
- Surgeons and healthcare staff should use the guidelines in tandem with WHO’s Surgical Safety Checklist, the agency said.
Surgical site infections in the U.S. are associated with more than 400,000 added hospital days $900 million in added cost each year, according to WHO.
Among the guideline’s recommendations are that people preparing for surgery should shower or bathe, and hair should not be removed from the operative site unless its presence will interfere with the procedure. The document also offers guidance on the best way for surgical teams to clean their hands, what disinfectants to use before making an incision and which sutures to use.
To prevent infection and avoid superbugs, WHO recommends using antibiotics before and during surgery, but not after. The group cites a pilot study in four African countries that showed implementing this practice could reduce surgical site infections by 39%.
In a recent Consumer Reports review, roughly one-third of 3,100 hospitals received poor scores for their ability to control clostridium difficile infection rates. The low-scoring hospitals included 19 teaching hospitals.
WHO’s recommendations on antibiotic use are intended to cut down on the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs. A study published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at antibiotic use at 383 U.S. hospitals and found that more than half of patients — 55.1% — received at least one dose of antibiotic during their stay.
The guidelines, which were published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, are applicable anywhere in the world and can be adapted to local needs and resource availability, WHO said.