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WHO recommends 29 ways to stop surgical infections

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
04 November 2016   |   3:58 am
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made 29 recommendations on how to stop the increasing cases of antibiotic resistance and surgery-related infections.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan delivers her speech during the World Health Assembly, with some 3,000 delegates from its 194 member states on May 23, 2016 in Geneva. On May 23. / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan delivers her speech during the World Health Assembly, with some 3,000 delegates from its 194 member states on May 23, 2016 in Geneva. On<br />May 23. / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made 29 recommendations on how to stop the increasing cases of antibiotic resistance and surgery-related infections.

The recommendations were also published yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and are designed to address the increasing burden of associated infections on both patients and healthcare systems globally.

According to the new guidelines from WHO that aim to save lives, cut costs and arrest the spread of superbugs, people preparing for surgery should always have a bath or shower but not be shaved, and antibiotics should only be used to prevent infections before and during surgery, not afterwards.

The surgical site infections, according to the organisation, 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 per cent of patients who undergo surgery are infected in the process. In Africa, up to 20 per cent of women who have a caesarean section contract a wound infection, compromising their own health and their ability to care for their babies.

Many studies show that implementing a range of preventive measures significantly reduces harm from surgical site infections.

WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, said: “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.”

But surgical site infections are not just a problem for poor countries. According to the WHO, in the United States (U.S.), they contribute to patients spending more than 400,000 extra days in hospital at a cost of an additional $900 million per year.

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.

Also, Director of WHO’s Department of Service Delivery and Safety, Dr. Ed Kelley, said: “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.”