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New WHO recommendation on surgery - washing yes, shaving taboo


WHO publishes new recommendation for infection prevention during surgery
Surgical interventions increase the risk of infection because germs can enter the organism through the wound. It is not uncommon for patients to become infected with hospital germs after an operation, with the multidrug-resistant pathogen strains in particular posing a considerable risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) has therefore issued a new "Global guideline for the prevention of surgical infections". This speaks out against the previous practice of shaving the surgical site before an operation.

The WHO has summarized a total of 29 recommendations in the guideline, with the help of which the infections during surgical interventions are to be minimized. According to the World Health Organization, the spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens must also be contained. According to the experts, bathing or showering before an operation is important, for example. Shaving the surgical site, which has been common up to now, should, however, be avoided as recommended by the WHO, as this increases the risk of infection. The new WHO guideline was also published in the specialist magazine "The Lancet Infectious Diseases".

29 WHO recommendations on infection prevention
To prepare for an operation, those affected should always be bathed or showered, but not shaved, according to the current WHO statement. It was also only sensible to give antibiotics “to prevent infections before and during the operation, and not afterwards.” The WHO experts made a total of 29 specific recommendations, some of which are in stark contrast to current practice. 13 recommendations relate to the preparation of operations, 16 aim to prevent infections during and after the operation.

Millions of infections from surgery
Surgical-related infections are a threat to the lives of millions of patients every year, and contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance, according to the WHO. In low- and middle-income countries, around 11 percent of surgically operated patients would suffer from an infection - in Africa, up to 20 percent of women who had a caesarean section were affected. "But surgical infections are not just a problem for poor countries," emphasizes the WHO. For example, in the United States, patients have to spend over 400,000 additional days a year in hospital because they have become infected during surgery.

Infection prevention is a highly complex task
"Sooner or later, many of us will need surgery, but none of us want to catch an infection on the operating table," emphasizes Dr. Ed Kelley, director of the WHO Service Delivery and Safety division. "Nobody should get sick while seeking or receiving medical help," adds Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Innovation. "Avoiding surgical infections has never been more important, but it is complex and requires a number of preventive measures," the expert added. The new guidelines are an invaluable tool for protecting patients. "By applying these new guidelines, surgical teams can reduce damage, improve quality of life, and do their best to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance," explains Dr. Kelley.

Significant reduction in infections possible
According to the WHO, many studies show that implementing a series of preventive measures can significantly reduce the damage caused by surgical infections. A pilot study in four African countries has shown that implementing the recommendations can reduce surgical infections by 39%, reports the WHO. (fp)

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