Disposable tools to prevent operating room infections

- You go to the hospital expecting to get better, not worse. While that's certainly the hope of medical staff as well, several hospitals in the Houston area were recently fined for high infection rates. Some local surgeons are operating business differently these days with a new plan of attack to help save lives. 

One woman who spoke with FOX 26 News is impressed to hear about the changes. Brittany Bennett says she almost died in 2010, after giving birth to her son. She suffered a severe infection in her incision after undergoing a c-section. 

"When I was in the hospital, the fever was only 99, so they sent me home," explains Bennett. "When they sent me home, it went to 104! I was burning up, had slight abdominal pain, I was sleeping a lot, and I had no appetite. It was a horrible feeling."

Bennett also says that the infection made her incision burst open. That means instead of nurturing her newborn, she was in a "fight for her life."  

"It scared me -- my fever was 104! They rushed me to the ER and told me I was going to the ICU floor for an infection," adds Bennett. After more surgery and several months of treatments, Bennett survived her ordeal.  She's so thankful for her surgeon, she named her son after him,

Many others don't have the same fate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that medical errors and infections acquired at hospitals are considered to be the third leasing cause of death. This claims more than a quarter of a million lives every year. 

Dr. James Jacobs is a podiatrist who performs surgery at the Hospital for Surgical Excellence of OakBend Medical Center in Sugar Land and now uses disposable surgical tools. He says he hopes this will help protect his patients from infection. 

"It's always nice to not have to worry about that," says Dr. Jacobs. "There's a percentage that could get a post-op infection with any type of surgery, but with this, in the sterile field and the instrumentation and everything, and the way they clean them, there's a very slim chance (knock on wood) of getting a post-op infection. The tools are all disposable. We just throw them away, so you don't have to worry about carrying an infection from one patient to another." 

Travis Nuckols with Flower Orthopedics provides the disposable tools. This company gets the tools back and they don't just get tossed out after a single use and overflow landfills. 

"They'll be recycled, broken down, put back into new instruments, re-sterilized and sent out for new surgeries," explains Nuckols. "They're considered terminally sterile, so they have been gamma radiated! They've gone through an intense amount of radiation to kill off any type of life form, opposed to cleaning them in the facility.  Typically, we steam-heat the tray in its entirety to try to achieve the sterility in the same instance, but we're able to assure a higher level of assurance by using radiation."

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says the crackdown on all hospitals seems to be working. Many facilities have put incentives and new plans in place to lower their rates of infection.

For more information about the use of disposable surgical tools, visit https://www.oakbendmedcenter.org/surgical-excellence/ and http://www.flowerortho.com/home.html.

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