Surgical patients who are allergic to penicillin are significantly more likely to develop infections after surgery, a study has found.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US noted that 40 per cent of health-care-related infections in hospitalised patients occur at the site of surgical incisions, and such infections can lead to complications and even death.
They also significantly increase health care costs, with treatment of the average infection exceeding USD 25,000, and influence patients' perceptions of the quality of care they receive, something that can directly affect hospital reimbursement, researchers said.
"We already know that more than 95 per cent of patients who believe they have penicillin allergy can actually tolerate the drug, which indicates that preoperative penicillin evaluation could effectively reduce surgical site infections in these patients," said Kimberly Blumenthal from MGH.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, viewed the medical records of almost 8,400 patients who underwent common surgical procedures - hip or knee replacement, hysterectomy, colon surgery and coronary artery bypass - at the MGH from 2010 through 2014.
Of that total, 922 patients had penicillin allergy noted in their medical record, a proportion similar to that of the general population, researchers said.
Overall 214 patients developed a surgical site infection: 3.5 per cent of those with documented penicillin allergy compared with 2.6 per cent of those without.
Researchers found that the risk of a surgical site infection was 50 per cent higher in patients with a reported penicillin allergy, and the only factor clearly associated with infection risk was the type of antibiotic patients received.
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