FROM St. Elsewhere through ER to House, the medical TV series has been a prime-time staple for so long that even casual viewers know when a surgeon's glove has been contaminated and the procedure for "scrubbing in" on an operation.
Patients facing surgery may be briefed on potential complications and may accept surgical "risk." But the common assumption remains that post surgical infections are contracted "in the hospital" or "on the ward."
So there are a substantial number of patients booked for surgery who do not follow pre-op instructions in the use of antibiotics up the nose. Bacteria living in the nose can be breathed out during an operation and infect the surgical site, especially in an immuno-compromised patient.
As chronicled in our Sunday Focus story this week, a year-long clinical trial of a new procedure that does not use antibiotics reduced the numbers of surgical site infections at Vancouver General Hospital by 39 per cent and save an estimated $1.9 million in care costs.
Consider too that the new procedure kills bacteria with non-thermal light energy - not antibiotics that in themselves contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria.
The numbers from the VGH trial suggest the new technology - championed by North Vancouver's Carolyn Cross - is the beginning of a major leap forward in surgical sterilization technique. Let's hope peer reviews confirm the VGH numbers and that Lions Gate patients will soon be having their noses "illuminated" as a matter of routine before surgeries.