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Intervention program helps reduce pneumonia among surgery patients

Postoperative pneumonia is a common complication among surgery patients and can lead to increased hospital stays and health-care costs. (Not to mention, it's no fun having pneumonia.) Now researchers have shown that a pneumonia-prevention program can significantly reduce the problem in hospital surgery wards.

Stanford surgeon Sherry Wren, MD, and colleagues developed and implemented eight intervention strategies, including physician and staff education, at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. They then tracked the number of patients who developed pneumonia and found there were three cases among 1,651 patents during the study period, compared to 13 cases among 1,668 patients during the pre-intervention period. This represents an 81 percent decrease.

The researchers said they weren't surprised that "simple steps in pneumonia prevention" could have such a big effect: The simple act of hand washing before and after patient contact, after all, has had profound consequences in the medical world. Their intervention program cost little, they said, but if expanded to other hospitals "could help improve patient care and lower morbidity, mortality, and overall health care costs."

The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

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