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Doctor gives five patients staph infection during surgery

Category: Infectious Diseases

Five Cedars-Sinai Medical Center patients contracted staph infections during heart valve replacement surgery due to microscopic tears in the doctor's gloves, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The problem became apparent in June when three patients who had all undergone the valve surgery were diagnosed with staph infections. After further analysis, epidemiologists concluded that the patients had the same bacterial strain, which meant that they got it from the same source. They traced the infection back to the surgeon who conducted the procedures. Later, it was discovered that two other patients had the infection as well. While one of the patients was treated with antibiotics, according to the LA Times, the other four had to undergo valve replacement surgery again.

Safety measures
According to Cedars-Sinai officials, the heart valve procedure requires the surgeon to tie more than 100 knots, which may have caused excess stress on the gloves and resulted in the minute tears. While national standards forbid surgeons with open sores from operating, there is no rule about skin inflammation, reported the news source, and Rekha Murthy, medical director of the hospital's epidemiology department, noted that there are also no rules as to what kinds of gloves should be used or how often they should be changed during a procedure.

The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit group that focuses on healthcare quality, told the LA Times that Cedars-Sinai has good infection ratings relative to other hospitals throughout California and the country but it has not scored as well in other surgery-related standards. In November, its ratings dropped from an A down to C.

"Clearly this hospital is making attempts to reduce infections, but they have more work to do," said Leah Binder, the Leapfrog Group's chief executive, as quoted by the news source.

Staph infection facts
Staph infection, which can be detected with a lab test, is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria and is present in the skin and nose. While the bacteria is usually harmless, if it penetrates the skin and gets into the blood, bones, lungs or heart, it can be deadly, reported the Mayo Clinic.

Some symptoms of staph infection include boils, a painful rash known as impetigo, cellulitis, or red and swollen skin, scalded skin syndrome, which results in a fever, rash and occasionally blisters and blood poisoning. Toxic shock syndrome can also occur, in which patients experience high body temperatures, nausea, vomiting, seizures, headaches and muscle aches.

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