study examines incidence of outpatient surgery infections

A group of researchers published a rather eye-opening 2009 study in the American Journal of Infection Control examining the cost of infections associated with inpatient surgeries, meaning those performed in hospital settings. Here, the focus of the study wasn’t necessarily on the human cost — which has been well documented on our blog — but rather on the economic costs.

Shockingly, the study revealed that surgical site infections associated with inpatient surgeries resulted in patients spending over 400,000 additional days in the hospital at a cost of over $900 million.

In recent developments, a group of researchers working with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining the incidence of infections associated with outpatient surgeries, meaning those performed in ambulatory settings. While the study didn’t focus on the purely economic costs of an infection, it did make some pretty startling revelations concerning their incidence.

After examining data on 284,098 outpatient surgical procedures (hernia repair, hysterectomy, orthopedic procedures, etc.) performed in eight states (California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee), the researchers concluded that patients developed significant surgical site infections in less than 0.5 percent of the cases.

However, breaking down the data further, they determined that the majority of those patients unfortunate enough to have developed infections after their outpatient surgery had to be hospitalized and that 60 percent of these infections were identified within two weeks of the procedure.

The researchers concluded that even though the likelihood of developing an infection associated with outpatient surgery was relatively low, the figures are still worth paying attention to given the sheer volume of outpatient surgeries performed in the U.S. every year.

“Serious infections following ambulatory surgery do occur, and patients should not assume these types of surgeries are without risks,” said one study author.

Furthermore, they pointed out that since 60 percent of the infections occurred within two weeks of the outpatient surgical procedure, patients would perhaps benefit more from earlier and/or more frequent post-op appointments in addition to being provided with specialized instructions on post-op care prior to their release.

Have you recently undergone an outpatient procedure? If so, what instructions were you given afterward? How long did you wait for a post-op appointment?

If you believe that medical malpractice somehow contributed to the onset of an infection that caused you or a family member to suffer unnecessarily, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.

Source: Modern Healthcare, “Surgical site infections after outpatient surgery rare, but still a risk, study finds,” Sabriya Rice, Feb. 21, 2014

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