Breakthroughs in Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgeons Fall Short on Hand Hygiene

Plastic Surgeons Fall Short on Hand Hygiene

Plastic surgeons don’t know how to wash hands properly, says a recent online survey of more than 120 ENT specialists. But, one patient safety expert notes that patients need not be overly concerned.

facial plastic surgeons fall short on hand-washingA recent online survey of more than 120 facial plastic surgeons nationwide has resulted in the bad–and frankly surprising–news that only half of them know how to properly wash their hands.

A research team at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital conducted the survey to establish the current hygiene knowledge and standards among a group of Ear, Nose and Throat trained facial plastic surgeons. And overall, the survey showed what the final study termed “suboptimal” hygiene standards.

Only 53 percent of the surgeons were aware that alcohol-based cleaners were best against bacteria on hands that appeared clean. Seventy-four percent of them were aware that soap and water is best on hands that appear dirty.

But only 42 percent of the surveyed surgeons knew the correct answer as to how often they should clean their hands during an operation – which is before and after having contact with a patient and before and after wearing examination gloves.

Proper hand hygiene is crucial, since it is the best way to prevent the spread of germs and infection in any hospital setting and certainly during facial surgery.

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The low survey results do indicate that correct standards aren’t being met, and the reasons may include misinformation, a lack of time among surgeons, a shortage of sinks or possibly aversion to chemicals that irritate skin.

However, Dr. Geoffrey Keyes, MD, FACS, a Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon and expert on patient safety, says patients should not be overly concerned by the findings. Most hospitals and surgical centers provide pre-packaged sponges for doctors to use during hand-washing, which contain chemicals that kill germs and bacteria. Since most surgeons rely on these sponges to do their dirty work, it’s not surprising that they don’t recall the specifics of when to use alcohol versus H2O when they scrub in.

Meanwhile, the study researchers suggested that hospitals provide written guidelines and easily accessible cleansing products, and monitor hand-washing practices.

Interestingly this is already the standard at all accredited surgery center and hospitals. What is not clear from this study is whether the lack of knowledge of hand washing trivia actually translates into any problems with the surgical procedure. The infection related complications in facial procedures is exceedingly low.

This study also surveyed facial plastic surgeons, who go through a different training pathway than Board Certified Plastic Surgeons via the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

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