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Preventing Surgical Site Infection (SSI)

, Preventing Surgical Site Infection (SSI)

Surgical site infections are potentially one of the deadliest problems facing the medical community today. Even if proper procedures are followed, however, the potential for contamination still exists, given that the body itself houses multitudes of different bacteria. If the surgical site is compromised in such a way that bacteria from another part of the body find their way to the surgical site, serious complications and death can occur.

New healthcare reform legislation also addresses surgical site infections. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as Obamacare or the ACA) gained traction for mandating that all small business owners with 50 or more full-time employees must provide health insurance benefits for their full-time staff. The Affordable Care Act also addresses revenue collection for a vast number of Medicare and Medicaid services. Regarding surgical site infection, the Affordable Care Act obligates non-payment policies for states. This means that hospitals and other healthcare providers may not receive federal compensation or Medicare benefits for surgical site infections following certain surgeries. In the medical community, such faulty procedures are known as provider preventable conditions.

Officials from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are working on new protocols to help physicians recognize hospital-resistant bacteria at earlier stages, allowing advanced medical facilities to stop the bacteria in its tracks before it has a chance to compromise patient safety. Once the bacteria find their way to the surgical site and cause an infection (particularly if the infection is deeply internal) additional surgery may be required to address the issue. This process is costly and risky to both patients and healthcare providers alike, so medical researchers are constantly innovating new ways in which to treat hospital-resistant bacteria and surgical site infections.

Many of these treatments focus on the use of conventional antibiotics, which may be only marginally effective against hospital-resistant bacteria. There have been worldwide increases in antibiotic resistance in the last several decades, resulting from excessive prescriptions and improper dosing (often patients stop when they feel better, leaving a portion of bacteria with antibiotic resistance that is then transferred to subsequent generations of bacteria). Livestock have also contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance due to the conditions in which farm livestock are typically raised: much closer quarters than in nature often require that farm livestock receive regular antibiotic treatment, generally through their feed. As humans ingest the meat and retain a near-constant supply of antibiotics in the blood, these conventional antibiotics are less likely to be effective when we really need them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has targeted antibiotic use in meat with several new prohibitive measures to minimize the spread of antibiotic resistance. 

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