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WHO issues global guidelines to stop surgical infections, superbugs

por Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
The World Health Organization has issued new surgical guidelines to help reduce the spread of hospital-acquired infections.

"No one should get sick while seeking or receiving care," Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, stressed in a statement. "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."

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The guidance advised that those 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."

Not only will such measures save lives, they will also save the health care system money and reduce the spread of “superbugs,” stressed the international agency.

WHO's "Global Guidelines for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection" includes a list of 29 concrete recommendations culled from leading experts and based on 26 reviews of the latest evidence.

The guidelines have been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Surgical site infections afflict 11 percent of surgical patients who undergo surgery in low- and middle-income countries, stated WHO, and, for example, in Africa up to 20 percent of caesarean sections lead to wound infection.

Even in advanced health care systems post-surgery infections pose challenges. They cause U.S. patients to spend over 400,000 extra days in the hospital, and run up $900 million annually in additional expenses.

There are 13 pre-op and 16 post-op anti-infection recommendations.

WHO stated that this is the first time that guidelines applicable everywhere had been issued. “No international evidence-based guidelines had previously been available and there are inconsistencies in the interpretation of evidence and recommendations in existing national guidelines,” it advised.

"Sooner or later many of us will need surgery, but none of us wants to pick up an infection on the operating table," said Dr. Ed Kelley, Director of WHO’s Department of Service Delivery and Safety. "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."

The guidelines go hand-in-hand with WHO's "Surgical Safety Checklist.”

These latest guidelines advised antibiotic use before and during surgery only – to help combat the spread of resistance.
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