Quality and Safety

Preventing Infections

High Priority of Infection Control

As a leading center specializing in the treatment of orthopedic surgical patients, controlling the risk of infection is always a very high priority for us. We regularly maintain the highest level of infection prevention and control throughout our hospital. This includes many practices that go beyond CDC-mandated protocols for infection control. Consequently, HSS maintains a very low infection rate compared to other hospitals in New York State.

Infection prevention and control is particularly important at a specialized hospital treating a high volume of orthopedic surgical patients. Because an infection can be a devastating outcome for an orthopedic patient, at Hospital for Special Surgery we take infection control extremely seriously. HSS has implemented several efficient and effective processes to address the issue, and we have been very successful.

We are proud of the recognition we have received for our significantly low infection rates. The New York State Department of Health shared 2013 data from 162 hospitals that performed hip replacement or revision surgery in New York State. Our surgical site infection (SSI) rate is less than half of the New York State average. The report mentions specifically that "Hospital for Special Surgery was significantly lower in all of the past six years." Read the most recent report (2013).

Additionally, the New York State Department of Health also reported that our hip infection rate was less than half what would have been expected for our patient mix. This is an important distinction as we treat many patients with complex needs.

Note: Data from New York State Hospital Acquired Infections Report, 2013.

We maintain the highest level of infection prevention and control at every level of patient care. From washing hands to maintaining a clean and safe environment for our patients in the operating room and the entire hospital, maintaining and even improving our low infection rates requires expertise and planning.

The following factors contribute to the low infection rate at HSS:

  • Fast surgery. Joint replacements are performed skillfully and quickly, with an average surgical time of 1.5 hours. The shorter the surgery, the less chance there is of infection.
  • Type of anesthesia. Almost all joint replacements are conducted under regional anesthesia. This technique, pioneered at HSS, has been shown to reduce bleeding, minimize post-operative pain, and shorten surgical time. Most importantly, the use of regional anesthesia reduces the chance of having a surgical infection by 50%.
  • Each of our uniquely-designed operating rooms are equipped with a high-tech air filtration system designed especially for surgery, which directs the air flow away from the operation, reducing the risk of infection, as it simultaneously cleanses and replenishes the air.
  • Surgeons wear specially-designed hooded protective suits to maintain the strictest sterile environment in the operating rooms.
  • A larger and more contemporary central sterile supply department was constructed and located on the seventh floor with separate elevators dedicated to transporting sterile and non-sterile supplies to and from surgical suites. Seven automated state-of-the-art washing disinfectors and a wide variety of cleaning tools help us to achieve maximum cleanliness. Every sterilization cycle is monitored using a biological and chemical indicator test. Loads are reviewed by a trained and certified central sterile processing (CSP) technician who verifies that all parameters for appropriate sterilization have been achieved. All instruments are inspected and carefully reviewed for functionality and soil through stringent processes and best practices before sterile products are delivered to perioperative areas.
  • Hand hygiene. Cleaning our hands before administering care (either with soap and water or a special antibacterial hand gel) is still one of the best ways to prevent infection and keep you safe while you’re in the hospital.
  • Receiving antibiotics prior to surgery. One important way to prevent infection is to administer the right antibiotic at the right time before surgery.

While we are proud of our low infection rate and the effects of our current anti-infection program, we strive to continuously improve our infection control practices and associated patient outcomes.

Download patient education materials for the following infection prevention issues: infection prevention brochure cover

  • 5 Things You Can Do To Prevent Infection (Speak up)
  • Surgical Site Infections
  • Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection
  • Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and Multiple
  • Drug Resistant Organisms (MDRO)
  • Catheter- Associated Bloodstream Infections
  • Ventilator Associated Pneumonia
  • Hepititis C
  • HIV
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