Simple measures cut hospital-acquired infections in colorectal surgery patients

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and six other hospitals released results of a national project aimed at cutting hospital infections that each year sicken nearly two million patients and kill about 100,000 people nationwide.

“Surgical site infections are a big problem in health care,” said Dr. Mark R. Chassin, president of the Joint Commission hospital regulating group, which along with the American College of Surgeons sponsored the seven-hospital project. “They are a major cause of patient injury and death. They prolong hospitalization and increase costs.”

The project lasted 30 months and focused on measures to make colorectal surgeries safer.  Chassin said patients who undergo colorectal surgeries for such conditions as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s Disease have a disproportionately high number of associated infections due to the abundance of bacteria found in the colon.  

Through the duration of the project, Chassin said, the seven hospitals adopted various measures that helped them reduce infections by 32 percent – or 135 cases. Fewer infections also saved the hospitals $3.7 million.

The results at Cedars-Sinai were even better than average, according to Dr. Shirin Towfigh, the surgeon who led that hospital’s participation in the project 

Towfigh told reporters in a telephone news conference that before the project began, colorectal surgical patients at Cedars-Sinai had a 15.5 percent chance of infection.

“We brought that down to five-and-a-half percent and since July we have maintained that below five percent,” she said.

Twofigh said many of the changes involved simple measures such as making sure patients shower with anti-bacterial soaps before surgery and having surgery teams change protective clothing and instruments during a procedure to prevent the spread of germs picked up in earlier stages of the surgery.

 The other hospitals involved in the project were Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; Mayo Clinic-Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minn.; North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, NY; Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago; OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill.; and Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Palo Alto.