Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in vascular surgery: increasing prevalence

Michelle D Taylor, Lena M Napolitano
Surgical Infections 2004, 5 (2): 180-7

BACKGROUND: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a virulent organism that causes substantial infection-related morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients. For example, MRSA infection of prosthetic vascular grafts can be limb- and life-threatening in surgical patients. We investigated the incidence of MRSA infection in vascular surgical patients who developed postoperative infectious complications.

METHODS: Prospective data (including procedure, nature of complication, and outcome) were collected on all vascular surgery patients (n = 772) over a two-year period from January, 2000, to December, 2001. The study cohort included all patients who developed postoperative complications (n = 119, 15.4%), including infection, unplanned or prolonged intubation, metabolic abnormalities, and myocardial ischemia. Bacteriologic data of all clinical cultures were reviewed and infection-related outcomes were examined.

RESULTS: Hospital-acquired infection occurred in 79 (66.4%) of 119 patients who developed postoperative complications. Review of microbiology data (total, 197 bacterial isolates) confirmed that gram-positive organisms were the leading cause of infections, with 120 gram-positive isolates (60.9%). Of the gram-positive isolates, S. aureus was the most common pathogen, isolated in 73 (60.8%) cultures. The single most prevalent organism was MRSA, identified in 42 of 73 (57.5%) of cultures. The site of MRSA infection was confirmed to be the surgical site (54.8%), sputum (17.0%), blood (14.3%), urine (9.5%), peritoneal fluid (2.4%), or catheter insertion site (2.4%). Only four patients had prior MRSA infection or colonization. Prosthetic vascular grafts were placed in 51 (42.9%) of the 119 vascular patients, and 26 patients (51.6%) acquired MRSA infection. Graft removal was required in three patients due to infection (MRSA infection in two patients, Pseudomonas aeruginosa in one patient). Forty percent of patients with MRSA infection required an amputation as their surgical procedure. No patient died of MRSA bacteremia during the study period. Mean hospital length of stay (LOS) was longer in patients with MRSA infection (29.6 d vs. 22.7 days, range 2-174 days, p < 0.05) compared to the total study cohort of vascular patients with postoperative infections.

CONCLUSIONS: Methicillin-resistant S. aureus has emerged as the leading cause of postoperative infection in vascular surgery patients, and is associated with substantial morbidity, increased hospital LOS, and higher incidences of amputation and graft removal. Greater emphasis on preoperative screening protocols for MRSA colonization is warranted, in conjunction with aggressive infection control measures, alteration of preoperative prophylactic antimicrobial use in MRSA-colonized patients, and meticulous postoperative surveillance for MRSA infection. Furthermore, antimicrobial treatment of postoperative infectious complications in vascular surgery patients should include empiric coverage for MRSA in institutions where MRSA is endemic.

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