(ARA) - It's enough to scare you away from any hospital. News on every network and in major newspapers report frightening statistics on hospital acquired infections. According to an Institute of Medicine report, more than 90,000 Americans actually die each year due to an infection they acquired while in the hospital. A large percentage of those infections are related to surgeries - surgery sometimes as common as a tonsillectomy.
There is good news. There is plenty that you, as a patient, can do to protect yourself and healthcare, government, and patient advocacy organizations are banning together to help you learn what to do. One such group, the Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP), has set a goal to reduce surgical complications by 25 percent by 2010. SCIP also announced a national consumer education campaign at a Washington, D.C. press conference this year.
"Ultimately healthcare is an active collaborative partnership with an essential part for all of us to play. We appreciate the goals set by SCIP â€¦and are proud to join the effort to build a better healthcare system to provide better healing for our patients, our loved ones and our country," U.S. Heath and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said at the event.
Major advocacy groups such as AARP and even medical manufacturers were on hand pledging their assistance. Medline Industries Inc., the country's largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies was at the announcement.
"This is so important to not only our industry, but to our families. We've made an enormous investment including not only awareness and education but in research, development and distribution of medical products that we are confident will help make surgery safer," said Medline President Andy Mills.
Medline recently received FDA clearance on one such product called RF-Detect. RF-Detect, a patented detection system, will accurately alert the user when RF-tagged surgical disposables remain in the patient before closing procedures. Retained surgical sponges, a leading safety concerns in operating rooms today, is one surgical complication that can and should be eliminated.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, retained surgical sponges occur at an estimated rate of 1 of every 1000 to 1,500 intra-abdominal operations. This type of incident can lead to serious complications including infection and even death.
Until RF-Detect, counting was the only mechanism for preventing sponges from being left in patients. The counting system is time consuming, subject to human error and exposes staff to potentially hazardous material. Studies have shown that in more than 80 percent of surgeries with a retained foreign body, the count had been recorded as correct. The RF system provides an additional layer of safety for patients undergoing surgical procedures.
"The need for systems and advanced products to improve these statistics is important to everyone involved - the patient, physician, hospital and insurance companies," said Mills.
What You Can Do to Make Surgery Safer
Talk to your surgical team.
You can help lower your risk for problems from your surgery by talking with a member of your surgical care team before surgery about the type of care you should receive. Your care team includes your surgeon, your anesthesiologist and your nurses. Ask your doctor who you should discuss these questions with before surgery.
Ask the Following Questions:
To avoid infection -
If I need antibiotics before surgery, when will I receive the antibiotic and for how long?
Antibiotics should be given within 60 minutes before surgery and should be stopped within 24 hours in most cases. Given properly, antibiotics can greatly lower your chances of getting an infection.
If hair needs to be removed from the part of my body that is having surgery, what will you use?
Clippers should be used to remove hair at the site of your surgery. Using a razor before surgery can cause infections because of the risk of leaving small cuts on the skin.
To avoid blood clots - What will you do to prevent blood clots?
Blood clots can lead to heart attacks and strokes. During surgery, you are at risk of getting blood clots because you do not move. The more complicated your surgery, the higher your risk. Talk to your doctor about your risk for blood clots and steps that will help prevent them, such as giving you the right medicine before surgery.
To avoid heart attacks ask - If I take medicine for heart disease, should I keep taking it?
Taking certain medicines together can cause problems. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter things like aspirin and herbal remedies. Your doctor will tell you which medicines you should and should not be taking before surgery.
Courtesy of ARA Content