Warm weather linked to increase in surgical infections

By Brooks Hays  |  May 16, 2017 at 5:37 PM
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May 16 (UPI) -- New research shows surgical site infections are more common in the summer, especially when temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Surgical site infections are the most common type of health-care related infection. Though many are superficial, serious infections can result in severe illness or death.

When researchers compared rates of surgical site infections with seasonal weather patterns, they found an increase in infections in the summer and a decrease in the winter. Especially warm weather, with temperature above 90 degrees, predicted a 28.9 percent rise in hospitalizations for surgical site infections compared to cold weather, with temperatures below 40 degrees.

"We show that seasonality of surgical site infections is strongly associated with average monthly temperature. As temperatures rise, risk increases," Dr. Philip M. Polgreen, an associate professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa, said in a news release. "However, the odds of any one person getting an infection are still small, and due to the limitations of our data, we still do not know which particular surgeries or patients are at more risk from higher temperature."

Researchers sourced their data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which tracks discharges from U.S. hospitals. Scientists were able to plot every instance of surgical site infection diagnosed between January 1998 and November 2011. Researchers compared the data with monthly temperatures, rainfall and wind averages.

The data showed surgical site infection discharges were higher in the summer months across all ages, genders and regions, as well as across all types of procedures. Researchers shared the results of their analysis in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

"These results tell us that we need to identify the patients, surgeries, and geographic regions where weather-related variables are most likely to increase patients' risk for infections after surgery," said Dr. Christopher A. Anthony, a surgery resident physician at University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "This way, we can identify the patients at the greatest risk for surgical site infections during warmer summer months."

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