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Safeguarding Operating Room Environments: Minimizing Traffic to Reduce Surgical Site Infections

Surgical procedures are well-known for their lifesaving potential in treating diseases and conditions, but they come with their share of challenges, primary amongst them being Surgical Site Infections (SSIs). SSIs harbor an assortment of complications, leading to extended hospital stays, escalated healthcare expenses, a rise in morbidity, and in more severe cases, mortality. With healthcare professionals consistently striving to minimize Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs), unpacking the causative factors for SSIs has become crucial in the mission to advance patient safety. One integral element impacting SSIs is associated with the surge of traffic within the surgical environment.

Studies have mapped out how frequent door slams and increased movement of personnel within the operating room (OR) can proportionally increase bacterial counts, thereby spiking the risk of infections. The movement patterns within the OR, which encapsulate door-opening frequencies and the volume of individuals stepping in or out during a procedure, carry significant weight in devising infection prevention strategies. A recent study openly discussed the down-trend in OR air quality due to increased human traffic and its role in ascending bacterial counts that consequently contribute to the rising incidence of SSIs. To unpack this issue, the study titled ‘Automated Traffic Monitoring of Neurosurgical Operating Room’ was put into motion to evaluate OR traffic patterns during neurosurgery procedures and understand the staff’s perspective on OR traffic.

The research team utilized a mix of direct observation, automated monitoring, and staff interviews to duly analyze the dynamics of OR traffic. Their powerful insights helped identify potential interventions to decelerate traffic and counter infection risks. Prolonged operations with high traffic were identified as a significant challenge to infection prevention and patient safety, and understanding the reasons behind OR traffic became imperative in streamlining strategies to minimize unnecessary entries or exits. Findings revealed that a large part (39%) of OR traffic was caused by the need to gather supplies, instruments, equipment, or other tasks. It was found that during a procedure, the OR door swung open multiple times, with an average of 18 door openings and about 20 people entering or exiting the OR per hour.

Reasons included supply retrieval, equipment delivery, emergencies, and staff movement for various tasks. Automation monitoring lent support to these observations, citing a strong correlation between the duration of the procedure and the volume of people entering or exiting the OR. Staff interviews were instrumental in providing insights into perceived reasons for OR traffic, suggesting interventions like utilizing communication devices, optimizing supply management, and heightening staff awareness to help minimize traffic.

Additionally, the need to educate staff about OR traffic rates and give regular feedback became apparent, helping align perceptions and foster adherence to infection control protocols. The action point from these findings strengthens the argument for monitoring and reducing OR traffic to prevent SSIs and enhance patient safety. Health care facilities can indeed leverage such strategies and apply targeted interventions to curtail unnecessary entries and exits, refine workflow processes, and thereby mitigate infection risks while optimizing surgical outcomes.


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