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Wound infections cheaper than we thought

The cost of infections post surgery and that first appear after a patient's discharge from hospital is 50 times less than previously estimated, according to a study by Queensland University of Technology.

Dr Nicholas Graves, from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the true cost of surgical infections post hospital discharge was just $74 - not the thousands other studies have suggested.

The findings of his study were published in the prestigious US journal Emerging Infectious Diseases titled Costs of Surgical Site Infections that appear after hospital discharge.

"Our study found that postdischarge surgical infections caused much lower costs than previously thought, even when costs are viewed from a societal perspective," Dr Graves said.

"This study contradicts other studies which have found the economic cost of a case of a surgical site infection after hospital discharge was almost 50-fold the estimate we have reported.

"Up until now little has been known of the costs of postdischarge wound infections but studies suggest that they are large with health services and patients incurring costs and subsequent production losses."

The study looked at 449 patients who underwent surgery.

"Of these 449 patients, 38 were diagnosed with a surgical site infection or wound infection that appeared after their release from hospital."

He said when taking into account the cost of health care services, work losses and outof- pocket expenses by the patient, the cost of infection was $74.

"We arrived at this figure by using statistical techniques to estimate how much a postdischarge wound infection contributed to these costs, while controlling the effects of other factors that also cause costs," he said.

Dr Graves said previous studies failed to zero in on this statistical information, thereby adding costs which would otherwise be attributed to the normal healing of a patient post surgery.

"Basically we included more control variables in our statistical equations and so explained more of the variation in cost outcomes.

"This reduced the amount of costs attributed to wound infections."

Dr Graves said there was a need to understand the true cost of surgical site infections so that policy makers could accurately predict the cost savings from prevention programs.

"This information will enable good quality infection-control decisions to be made," he said.

"Biased estimates of cost savings will lead to poor decision making about infection control."

Sandra Hutchinson | EurekAlert!
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