Protecting against hospital infections

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

Q: My husband will be in the hospital for knee replacement surgery, and I'm worried about hospital-borne infections. Any good news on this front?

— Sarah, F., Newport, R.I.

A: Yes, a tremendous amount. Progress is being made by hospitals to prevent infections from all causes and specifically from superbugs. Here's what's new and tried-and-true.

There's ever-improving older technology. UltraViolet (UV) germicidal technology continues to be upgraded and is used for sterilizing operating rooms, air ducts, hospital equipment, hallways and patient rooms. And steam/vacuum sterilization and the use of germicides are effective.

New stuff includes robotlike devices that can clean a room by dispersing hydrogen peroxide into the air and then detoxifying it. Some hospitals say this can reduce a patient's chances of becoming infected with drug-resistant bacterial strains of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile by 80 percent.

Lastly there's what we call the “all-hands-on-deck” approach, combining the latest technological solutions with standard cleaning.

Dr. Mike's Cleveland Clinic has been a leader in achieving hand hygiene — the single most effective front-line defense against infection in hospitals. An extensive education campaign and the addition of hand-hygiene monitors improved the compliance rate at the Cleveland Clinic to greater than 98 percent.

And that brings us to what you and your husband can do to help protect him while he's in the hospital. Insist that everyone wash his or her hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering the room — and then before each time there's personal contact. It doesn't help to wash hands, pick up dirty dishes or linens and then touch the patient — gotta wash even between touching your handbag (it is the dirtiest place next to the TV remote and your cellphone) and the patient!

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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