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Surgeons reduce use of antibiotics before surgery to curb resistance

Growing Resistance to Antibiotics and How its Changing Routine Surgery

One of the most significant steps in preparation for surgery is the dose of prophylactic antibiotics that a patient receives before the actual procedure even begins. Because antibiotics have helped to reduce the risk of infection during surgery to a minimum, the majority of the population and the medical community alike consider a routine surgery to be safe.

The Changing Role of Antibiotics

There are almost 50 million surgeries performed yearly in the United States. A recent report stated that surgical infection for the 10 most common procedures drops from 11 percent to 4.2 percent with the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, a problem is growing. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections is forcing medical practitioners and patients alike to make more difficult choices than they had previously had to consider when choosing what has previously been considered routine.

Antibiotic Resistant Infections

These types of resistant infections are caused by microbes that have become invulnerable to the drugs that are used to kill them. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Infection estimated that Americans contract 2 million resistant infections per year and that these infections lead to 23,000 deaths. It is estimated that resistant diseases will kill 10 million people per year by 2050 and will cost anywhere from $60 trillion to $100 trillion in lost GDP. These resistant infections are the result of several factors – ranging from the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture to the overuse and prescription of antibiotics for infections that they have limited or no effect on.

Dangers of Resistance

Aside from the obvious dangers of the renewing emergence of once subdued diseases, such as staph infections, salmonella, gonorrhea, tuberculosis and more, there are hidden dangers as resistant infections emerge from the overuse of antibiotics in operating rooms and chemotherapy clinics and more. As resistance begins to grow and we see infections emerging from once routine surgical procedures like hip replacements, appendectomies, and pacemaker implants, more and more people will have to make hard choices about health procedures.

How it’s Changing the Operating Room

While resistance in surgery is not a widespread issue as of yet, the risk for it to become so is increasing. One of the most frightening effects of resistance is that patients will now have to choose between the increased risk of infection and a possibly life-changing, or life-saving procedure.

Exploring Possible Solutions

Better science and developments in hospital procedures are on the forefront of reversing the rapid increase in resistant infections. More advanced and experimental procedures, such as using viruses that infect bacteria to combat infections, are being studied along with using a patient’s own immune systems to combat infections on their own. These advances will hopefully slow the growth and spread of resistant infection.

The Importance of Slowing Resistant Disease Spread

If resistant infection continues to grow, some of the procedures we consider to be routine may become unavailable to us, as the risk of infection will outweigh the benefits of the procedure. From joint replacement surgeries to childbirth, patients will be forced to make difficult and heartbreaking decisions about their health. In the worst case scenarios, scrapes, sprains, and minor injuries could move from minor hassles to major complications. Education and broad spectrum procedural changes are needed to prevent these scenarios from becoming a reality.

Jeffrey A. Newman represents whistleblowers.