Hospital Staph Outbreak Linked to Surgeon’s Infected Hands

An unnamed surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has been linked to an outbreak of hospital staph that infected five cardiac patients.

The surgeon had an inflammation on his hand at the time that he implanted replacement heart valves, last June, into five patients, said NBC Los Angeles. Although the surgeon wore gloves during the procedure, the gloves developed microscopic tears, the hospital said. These tears, said Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, resulted in the infection being passed to at least five patients who then became infected with the Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria.

“We have apologized to the patients involved, worked diligently to answer any questions they have, and provided appropriate follow-up, support and monitoring,” a hospital spokesman just said in a statement. Although the physician remains on the hospital’s staff, he is no longer performing surgeries, according to Cedars-Sinai, said NBC Los Angeles.

According to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis) is one of several hospital-acquired blood infections and is resistant to quinolones, particularly to ciprofloxacin (Cipro); resistance to vancomycin has been recently reported and several reports indicate that vancomycin and other glycopeptide antibiotics lose their efficacy against S. epidermidis organisms embedded in the biofilm environment, which is found on the surface of medical devices.

We’ve long reported on the escalating issues with Staphylococcus infections, specifically MRSA, a type of staph that causes infections resistant to most antibiotics and which has sickened tens of thousands of Americans annually in recent years. Without treatment or with incorrect diagnosis and treatment, MRSA spreads rapidly, leading to respiratory failure and surgeries, attacking vital organs like the lungs and heart. Survivors are not always returned to their pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full use of damaged organs.

About 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA occur annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); most occur in hospitals and other health-care settings. In the U.S., MRSA kills some 20,000 people annually.

We’ve also previously discussed that infections that patients caught in hospitals in just one year alone killed 48,000 and a cost a whopping $8.1 billion, based on a 2006 study funded by Resources for the Future. The study was the first of its kind to attach a price to the problem, noted Reuters previously

Experts feel that problems such as this are adding to the growing cost of health care in the U.S. and this research team said that some 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections are diagnosed annually.

The researchers reviewed hospital discharge records for 69 million patients at hospitals in 40 states between 1998 and 2006, and looked for two diagnoses: Hospital-acquired pneumonia and the blood infection, sepsis. Sepsis led to a 20 percent fatality rate in patients who developed the infection following surgery. Afflicted patients required hospital stays of 11 days for a cost of about $32,900 each.


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