Infection control in the operating room: is it more than a clean dish?

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Purpose of review

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are driven by a complex interplay between host defenses, pathogen traits, and pathogen transmission. A better understanding of each of these factors is required to extend infection control beyond antibiotic therapy to improvements in basic preventive measures that can achieve sustained HCAI reductions. The purpose of this article is to review recent advancements in our understanding of these issues for the operating room environment.

Recent findings

The importance and implications of intraoperative bacterial transmission have been solidified, and hyper transmissible, virulent, and antibiotic resistant bacterial strains have been characterized. As a result, a best practice for improved intraoperative infection control has been delineated. Little advancement has been made in our understanding of the efficacy of higher inspired oxygen concentrations, improved postoperative glucose control, perioperative normothermia, and prophylactic antibiotic selection, timing, and dose for HCAI prevention.


Recent work has led to the development of evidence-based hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, patient decolonization, and intravascular catheter design and handling improvement strategies. Evidence suggests that a best practice for postoperative infection control is a multimodal program that utilizes these interventions to target patient, provider, and environmental reservoirs in parallel. The development of novel diagnostic tools for targeted attenuation of hyper virulent, transmissible and resistant strains/strain characteristics is indicated to improve patient decolonization efforts.

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