According to recent research, more than one in 20 patients undergoing breast surgery later develop infections at incision sites. The study also found that breast cancer patients are twice as likely to suffer an infection at the surgery site if they receive an implant instead of their own tissue.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts down the infection rate following breast removal surgery at 2 percent, though other studies show it to be anywhere between 1 percent and 28 percent.
A two-year study published in the Archives of Surgery, gives that 5.3 percent, or 50, of nearly 950 patients developed infections within a year of their procedures, either inside and outside of the hospital. The average time between surgery and infection was stated to be 47 days.
"The surgical site infection rates following breast surgery seem to be much greater than the nationally reported incidence of 2 percent and much higher than what is expected for clean surgical procedures," reports lead author Margaret Olsen of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
It was also seen that these infections rose in a little more than 12 percent of mastectomies where breast reconstruction involved an implant, as against just over 6 percent of mastectomies where the reconstruction involved the patient's own abdominal tissue. "The bottom line is that implants are associated with an increased risk of infection in breast cancer patients. The question is what factors contribute to this increased risk and what can be done to prevent it?" ask Olsen.
According to Dr. Stephen R. Colen, chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, any time a foreign body is introduced during surgery it provides a surface on which bacteria can grow. Yet, Colen also stresses that reconstruction using abdominal tissue has its own risks. These procedures take several hours longer than implant reconstructions and boost patients' odds for blood clots and lung embolisms. This is not all, in 2 percent of cases, the transplanted tissue dies, necessitating more surgeries.
Olsen has also urged hospitals take greater care by making sure preventive antibiotics are administered correctly before surgery, maintaining meticulous hand hygiene and ensuring timely removal of wound drains.
The cost of follow-up medical care was given as around $4,000 per patient, sealing the need for prevention of such infections. Infections have taken on fresh urgency as drug-resistant staph infections rise.