Postoperative dangers

Doctors should wash their hands before examining patients who have undergone surgery to prevent the appearance of postoperative infections and related complications that are the major cause of patient deaths, according to statements made at a medical press conference on Wednesday. Seventy-five percent of all deaths after operations are due to infections, such as pneumonia, septicemia, infections from catheters and infected wounds, professor of surgery and history of medicine Stephanos Geroulanos said in view of the Eighth Panhellenic Congress on Surgical Infections. Medical experts also warned against the abuse of antibiotics, which has put Greece in top place regarding multi-resistant strains of bacteria in hospitals. In a hospital with 250 postoperative beds, infections can cause 20 deaths annually and 2,000 more days of hospital stays for patients who have undergone surgery. Measures to prevent infection include cleaning a wound properly during surgery, using sterilized instruments, and restricting doctors’ movements within the operating room. The transmission of infections to other patients can be avoided if doctors wash their hands between examining patients. In fact, Geroulanos emphasized the need for a sink for every two beds in intensive care. The correct administration of antibiotics also plays an important role in hindering infections. Geroulanos pointed out that 60 percent of surgeons do not use antibiotics correctly, with the result that resistant strains of bacteria emerge. Multi-resistant strains of staphylococcus and pseudomonas are more common in Greek patients than in any other country in Europe. Two to 10 percent of patients in Central Europe who are infected by staphylococcus have the resistant strain, a figure that rises to 30 percent in Spain, Italy and Turkey and 40 percent in Greece. Nurses play a key role in dealing with infections promptly, as they are responsible for checking the wound and the temperatures of patients who have undergone surgery and for changing catheters. Geroulanos said one nurse for infections per 150 beds would cut death and hospitalization rates to 50-70 percent.