Penicillin Allergies Increase Risk of Surgical Site Infections
Surgical incision infections account for almost half of all hospital infections, and recent data from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggests patients with penicillin allergies are even more likely to develop such an infection. Surgical infections, with an average treatment cost of $25,000, can lead to major health complications and sometimes death if not properly treated. High rates of infections following hospital procedures reflect poorly upon the hospital overall. As such, many are calling for the addition of penicillin allergy testing as standard in the national guidelines to greatly reduce the number of surgical site infections.
Prior studies have been performed on penicillin allergies and how they amplify the cost of health care, however none were directly tied to surgical site infections. A recent study, conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), reviewed medical records of 8,400 of their patients who had undergone surgical procedures over the course of four years. A total of 922 patients were reported to have penicillin allergies between 2010-2014, and 214 of them developed surgical incision infections. The study took many factors into account such as race, age, and sex, type and duration of surgery. Results illustrated a clear picture that patients with penicillin allergies had a 50 percent higher rate of infection than those without the allergy.
Reportedly, 95 percent of patients with penicillin allergies could tolerate the drug, and issues only became apparent once the MGH study data on incision infections was correlated with penicillin allergies. Kimberly Blumenthal, MD and leading author of the MGH report, said penicillin allergy testing should be done preoperatively to greatly reduce the number of surgical site infections. Blumenthal raised awareness on the issue and now several surgical and anesthesiology groups at MGH will be providing outpatient penicillin testing as a preventative measure for patients scheduled for upcoming surgeries.
Erica Shenoy, MD & PhD of the MGH Division of Infectious Diseases and the Infection Control Unit and contributing author to the study, worked alongside Blumenthal to implement the outpatient testing at MGH. She urges patients with penicillin or cephalosporin allergies who are scheduled for surgeries to discuss allergy evaluations beforehand with their doctors.
Alternatives to Penicillin
The MGH study also showed a direct correlation between surgical site infections and the type of antibiotic administered to the patient. Patients with an allergy to penicillin are not given the standard antibiotic called cefazolin. Instead, they are prescribed less effective drugs such as clindamycin, gentamicin, or vancomycin. Vancomycin requires a longer transfusion time than penicillin-based cefazolin, and often it is administered too soon after surgery. This may also contribute to alternative antibiotics being less effective and illustrate why patients with penicillin allergies are more susceptible to surgical site infections.
South Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. Fight for Those Harmed by Hospital Negligence
If you are suffering from a hospital-acquired infection or other serious health complication due to medical malpractice, our skilled team at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. can help. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Our offices, located in Philadelphia, King of Prussia, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, enable us to serve clients throughout the South Jersey and the Philadelphia area. Schedule a free consultation with a seasoned South Jersey medical malpractice lawyer by calling 856-354-9444 or submit an online inquiry.