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Noisy ORs Associated with Infections After Surgery

Transplant surgery (NIH)

(National Institutes of Health)

Medical researchers and psychologists from Neuchâtel and Berne universities in Switzerland found that surgical patients are more likely to suffer surgical site infections (SSIs) if the operating room is noisy. The team published their findings in the July issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

The researchers studied 35 patients who underwent planned, major abdominal surgery, exploring demographic parameters, the duration of the operation, and sound levels in the theater. The noise intensity was measured digitally in decibels (dB) every second. They also used a standard questionnaire to evaluate the behavior of surgical team members during the operation. The team’s primary outcome measure was the rate of surgical site infections within 30 days of surgery.

The results showed six of the patients (17%) developed SSIs and the only variable that affected the SSI rate was the noise level in the operating theater, which was considerably higher in the infected patients. The sound level was at least 4 dB above the median in patients with SSI compared those without infections. Demographic factors and the duration of the surgery were not significantly different between patients with, or without SSI.

Noise volume during the surgery is a possible indicator of a difficult operation, which the authors note could explain the association between noise volume and SSI. The extended time needed for a procedure may also serve as an indicator of complexity, with the longer time for the operation leading to additional exposure to microorganisms. Yet the findings did not show an association between the duration of operation and noise levels.

Read more: CDC Awards Grants to Reduce Health Care Infections

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