Project Joints: swiping away surgical infections

August 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
They go in hoping surgery will fix their problem, but come out with a potentially deadly dilemma. Every year 300 thousand Americans get a surgical site infection. A recent report found they're the most common healthcare-associated infections in the US.

Now, a new prevention program is helping cut those numbers.

Marilyn Fedor had a bad hip?so she got a new one.

Due to the fact that bacteria that's already on a patient's skin can get into an incision and cause infections doctors started prepping Marilyn for surgery 14 days before the operation. Doctor Brian Tonne says if hip and knee replacement patients get an SSI, typically their implant has to be taken out and they're put on IV antibiotics.

Orthopaedic Traumatologist and Joint Reconstruction Doctor Brian Tonne, MD at the University Of Tennessee Medical Center said that it, "typically takes six to eight weeks before that joint replacement can then be put back in."

Now "project joints" is reducing that risk. Patients go through an educational class before their hip or knee replacement. Then, "they receive a nasal swab; we can then find out if they carry staph bacteria," Doctor Tonne, MD, explained.

For the final three days before surgery, patients use a special anti-bacterial anti-septic soap. "You scrub your whole body down from the neck down and then they said to do your leg, my bad leg for three minutes," Hip Replacement Patient Marilyn Fedor said.

And clippers are used at the surgical site instead of razors, to help keep bacteria out of the body. The University of Tennessee Medical Center's infection rate for knee and hip replacements was almost two-percent before project joints. Now, "it has dropped to approximately point-five percent," Doctor Tonne said.

Project joints is currently in hospitals in eight states and is expanding to facilities in five more states. The doctor says right now, the program is only being used for patients getting hip and knee replacements, but the goal is to use it in other joint replacements and orthopedic procedures.


Brian Tonne, MD

Orthopaedic Traumatologist and Joint Reconstruction

University Orthopaedic Surgeons

University of Tennessee Medical Center