New research highlights the long-term risks linked to surgical infections, indicating that postoperative infections within the first 30 days after a procedure is significantly associated with additional infection problems and increased mortality over the next year.
In findings published this month in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, researchers indicate that preventing short-term infections after surgery may greatly improve long-term outcomes, and the costs associated with later infections and death should be included as part of any cost-benefit analysis for surgical infection prevention programs.
Researchers evaluated data involving 660,000 U.S. veterans who underwent major surgery through the Veterans Health Administration from January 2008 to December 2015. On average, patients were 60 years old.
Nearly 4% of patients acquired a surgical infection during the first 30 days. Furthermore, nearly 7% later had a long-term infection, and roughy 4% of patients who initially had a postsurgical infection died during the followup period.
The most common infection problems experienced during the first 30 days included surgical site infections, which accounted for nearly half of the infections. One-quarter were urinary tract infections, 15% were pneumonia, and 8% were bloodstream infections.
Similarly, nearly half of the infections contracted long-term were urinary tract infections. One-third were skin and soft tissue infections, 9% were bloodstream infections and 6% were pneumonia.
Patients had a higher observed incidence of long-term infection if they had an infection during the first 30 days. Roughly one-quarter of patients with an infection in the first 30 days ended up with a long-term infection compared to 6% of patients who didn’t have an infection in the first 30 days.
More so, 13% of patients had a higher risk of death compared to those without a 30 day infection. Only 3% of patients without a 30 day infection had an increased risk of death.
Overall, patients who had an infection in the first 30 days had a threefold risk of getting a long-term infection at the 1 year mark and double the risk of death.
Researchers warn, surgical site infections decrease the survival rate in veterans by up to 42%.
Focusing on preventing short-term infections can translate to improved outcomes in the long run. It can help decrease serious infections within the first year of having surgery and help reduce the risk of death from serious infections during that time.
Study authors warn it is important to consider long-term effects and long-term costs for treatment when determining short-term interventions. Prevention efforts in the first 30 days after surgery may help improve long-term patient outcomes and associated costs.