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Risk of Surgical Infection Rises with OR Noise Levels

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 23, 2011

 A link on an infection surveillance website seemed to scream "Click Me!" It read: Noise could be responsible for surgical site infections.

What? Could sound level in the operating room be an infection culprit?

"Yes it can," say researchers from the Berne University Hospital in Switzerland, reporting in a recent issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

Over the years, researchers have considered many possible causes for increases for these troublesome nosocomials, and some have been shown to be influential, including: the number of people in the operating room, the length of the surgical procedure, increased body mass index, degree of existing disease in the patient, loss of blood, the amount of tissue exposed, and so on

They've also considered the type of scrubs worn, the pre-operative scrubbing techniques, sanitization, tools and devices used during the procedure and the list goes on.

But of all the areas on that long list, rarely has noise level been considered.

At the Department of Visceral Surgery and Medicine, Guidi Beldi, MD, and colleagues measured decibel levels during 35 major elective open abdominal procedures.

In 2009, Beldi enrolled 1,032 surgical patients in a study to determine whether extensive antiseptic measures, compared with standard measures, could reduce surgical site infections. They didn't. But what was revealed was that changing team members during surgery, visitors in the O.R., hectic movements, and loud noise are associated with higher rates of SSIs.

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