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Antibiotics & Surgery

How Antibiotic Resistance Could Make Common Surgeries More Dangerous

“An appendectomy is the white bread of surgeries. It’s common, it’s low-risk, and it only takes an hour or two to perform. Even the children’s-book character Madeline had her appendix out, and it was so not a big deal that at the end of the book, the other girls who lived in the “old house in Paris that was covered with vines” complained that they wanted to get their appendixes out too, so they could get presents and have a cool scar.

But still, any surgery involves cutting someone open and sewing them back up again. And no matter how quotidian the procedure, when you open somebody’s body up, there’s a risk of infection.

To help reduce this risk, many surgical patients are given prophylactic antibiotics. But with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, that strategy may become less and less effective. A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases by researchers at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy examines just how much less.

If antibiotics became 30 percent less effective when used before surgery, that would result in 120,000 more infections a year, and 6,300 deaths from those infections. And that’s just from the top 10 surgeries and chemotherapy, and only in the U.S.”

We should reduce prophylactic antibiotics wherever we can. In the case of a dental infection, only a small fraction of antibiotics taken through the mouth will actually reach the site of the infection. However, dentists are sometimes guilty of over-prescribing antibiotics for dental infections.

That begs the question: is antibiotic necessary for dental infections?

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