Reducing Post-Surgical Infections

According to a recent estimate, implant infections following hip and knee replacement surgeries in the U.S may be as high at 65,000 by 2020 with the associated healthcare costs to exceed $1 billion. However, a new small high tech device called the Air Barrier System (ABS) could have an impact on improving health outcomes and reducing cost for these types of surgeries.

The ABS developed by Nimbic Systems approved for sale by FDA, can be attached on top of the surgical drape to gently emit HEPA-filtered air over the incision site. By creating a cocoon of clean air, the device prevents airborne particles including bacteria that can cause healthcare-associated infections from entering the wound.

Scientists recently analyzed the effectiveness of the ABS device in a clinical study conducted at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston The clinical trial was a partnership between the Baylor College of Medicine and Nimbic Systems.

The clinical study funded by the National Institute for General Medicine Sciences (NIMS) within NIH to study if the ABS really works involved nearly 300 patients. Each patient needed an implant such as an artificial hip, a blood vessel graft in the leg, or a titanium plate in the spine.

Since implant operations involve inserting foreign materials permanently into the body, they present an even higher risk of infection than many other surgeries, plus the fact that implant infections can cause life-long problems.

The researchers focused on one of the most common causes of implant infections which is the air in the operating room. Although operating rooms are much cleaner than almost any other non-hospital setting, it is nearly impossible to sterilize the entire room.

Instead the researchers focused on reducing contaminants directly over the surgical site. They theorized that if the air around the wound was cleaner, the number of implant infections might go down. The researchers sampled air every ten minutes during surgeries, nearly 3,000 times over a total of 470 hours.

The ABS successfully cleansed air around incision sites with the average number of airborne particles dropping by 37 to 91 percent, depending on the type of surgery. The device also kept airborne microorganisms to almost zero and the ABS appeared to reduce implant infections.

The ABS device costs $200-$250 per surgery. Treating a single post-surgical infection can be far costlier by an estimated $40,000 for each of the four infections in this study. Using the device promises to not only reduce the post-surgical implant infections but might even reduce overall healthcare costs.


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