Infections at Hospital Raise Questions About Surgeons With Illnesses
A series of hospital-acquired infections at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have raised questions about which health conditions should prevent a surgeon from operating on patients, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports.
On Friday, Cedars-Sinai officials said that a heart surgeon earlier this year unknowingly infected five patients during valve replacement surgeries through tiny tears in a latex surgical glove.
According to officials, tears allowed bacteria from a skin inflammation on the surgeon's hand to pass into the patients' hearts.
The officials said four of the patients needed a second operation because of the infections. The patients survived the operations and still are recovering.
The California and Los Angeles County departments of public health -- as well as Cedars-Sinai -- investigated the infections. CDC also consulted on the situation.
Hospital officials said the infections were a "very unusual occurrence" that likely were caused by a series of factors, including the:
- Microscopic tears in the glove;
- Nature of the surgery; and
- Surgeon's skin condition.
According to hospital officials, valve replacement surgery can cause extra stress on surgical gloves because it requires surgeons to use thick sutures and tie more than 100 knots.
However, Harry Sax -- vice chair of the hospital's department of surgery -- said, "Any hospital-acquired infection is unacceptable."
Rekha Murthy -- medical director of the hospital's epidemiology department -- said that although surgeons with open sores or known infections are not supposed to operate, there is no national standard for surgeons who have a skin inflammation.
According to Murthy, there also are no standards for:
- The types of gloves that surgeons use;
- Whether surgeons should wear two pairs of gloves; or
- How many times surgeons should change gloves during an operation (Gorman, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 12/8).