Pre-operative Information: Preventing Infection
Most patients do well after spine surgery. However, a small number of patients (about 1 to 2.5 in 100) may develop an infection after the operation. An infection in your spine may cause you to need antibiotics, more surgery, and increase the time it takes for you to recover. All humans carry bacteria on their skin, in their hair, and in their nose, mouth, and stomachs. The normal bacteria that we carry can cause infection after surgery. One bacteria is called Staphylococcus Aureus. To decrease your risk of infection after spine surgery, it is important to find out if you carry this bacteria in your nose.
Testing for Staphylococcus Aureus
About one in four to five people carry Staphylococcus Aureus in their nose where it usually does not cause a problem. Prior to your surgery, your doctor will order a test to check for two types of Staphylococcus Aureus: methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus (MSSA). This test will be done at the time of your spine class at Rush Copley. A cotton swab will be gently rubbed on the inside of your nose. It may tickle, but will not hurt. You do not need to fast for this test. You will receive a call with your test results in the afternoon after your pre-operative class.
If you are positive for MRSA or MSSA in your nose, a prescription for a medication called Bactroban or Mupirocin will be called into your pharmacy. You will put a pea-sized amount of this ointment on a q-tip in your nostril morning and evening for 5 days. This medicine will kill the Staphylococcus Aureus.
A positive test does not mean you have an infection, only that you tested positive for carrying this bacteria. Your surgery will not be cancelled if you test positive.
Another way to decrease infection is to clean your skin with special cloths prior to your surgery. ALL spine surgery patients will receive instructions and cloths that have a special anti-bacterial soap (Chlorhexidine Gluconate) in them when you attend the pre-operative class at Rush Copley. These cloths help reduce bacteria on the skin before surgery and need to be used whether you tested positive or negative for Staphylococcus Aureus. You will be given complete instructions on how to use these cloths prior to surgery.