Maureen Spencer: Recent studies show that SSIs have huge impact for patients and public health.

Approximately 4.1 million people fall sick each year in Europe with infections they acquire in hospital. The proportion of surgery-related wound infections (surgical site infections, SSI) makes with 17 percent a considerable part. Dr. Maureen Spencer, one of the pioneers in the field „Infection Control” tells about important measures to reduce SSIs.
(in german: Etwa 4,1 Millionen Menschen erkranken jedes Jahr an Infektionen, die sie im Krankenhaus erwerben. Der Anteil operationsbezogener Wundinfektionen (surgical site infections, SSI) macht mit 17 Prozent einen erheblichen Teil aus. Dr. Maureen Spencer, eine der Pionierinnen im Bereich „Infection Control“ erzählt über wichtige Maßnahmen zur Reduzierung dieser SSIs.)

Mrs. Spencer, why is it so important to create standardized definitions and methods for collecting and reporting SSI-surveillance data?

SSIs are amongst the most common healthcare associated infections and a priority for surveillance programs in European countries. They are associated with longer hospital stays, additional readmissions, stays in intensive care units and often higher mortality. SSI rates are a method to measure performance between surgeons, institutions and countries. For this to be meaningful there must be standardized definitions and methods for collecting and reporting surveillance data.

Apart from reporting, presumably the most significiant measure to reduce SSI rates is to exchange information. How does it work between the EU-countries?

The EU surveillance of healthcare-associated infections allows hospitals to participate in a national/regional surveillance system to improve the quality of care in multicenter settings. There are bundled approaches and multidisciplinary teamwork that can be effective in reducing SSI rates. At the European level the SSI surveillance system monitors the epidemiology of SSIs and identifies regions or countries at higher need for support. The EU system communicates relevant data and exchange of experience between the national/regional networks. The estimated SSI rates from selected studies varied widely from 1.5-20% – a consequence of inconsistencies in data collection methods, surveillance criteria and wide variations in the surgical procedures investigated.

Insufficiant prevention of SSIs causes enormous costs – what are the most important measures to reduce these costs?

Healthcare costs for a patient with SSI are, on average, approximately twice the amount of costs for a patient without an SSI.Therefore, there is an increased interest in the prevention of healthcare associated infections and in the potential savings in healthcare costs. Despite clear progresses during the last decades, recent studies show that SSIs have a huge impact for patients and public health. Thus, the prevention of SSIs must constitute a priority and focus on classical approaches such as skin preparation, antibiotic prophylaxis, asepsis in the operative environment and standardized surveillance. These have proven to be effective in decreasing the incidence of SSIs.