A recent article on SiliconHills, an Austin / San Antonio focused news outlet, touts the benefits of local San Antonio-based Xenex, a manufacturer and distributor of robotic UV disinfection systems. Morris Miller, a serial entrepreneur (he co-founded Rackspace in 1998) and the hard-charging CEO of the company, maintains that he “shouldn’t be going to sleep until we’re in every single healthcare facility in the U.S.”
Lofty ambitions indeed. Ever-supportive of multi-front approaches to fighting SSI, we believe the explosion of robotic hospital room disinfection technologies (Xenex, Tru-D SmartUVC Room Disinfection in Memphis, TN, and a joint venture between Clorox Co. and UltraViolet Devices) represent an important advance toward eliminating hospital acquired infections.
While environmental contamination is a source of infection, its relevance decreases dramatically as a root cause in complex abdominal surgical procedures. Why? For starters, sterile technique helps eradicate a great deal of the bioburden present in the hospital environment and patient. More importantly, complex surgical procedures often violate contaminated organs and structures, releasing high concentrations of bacteria into the surgical site. CDC clearly supports this data–2/3rds of abdominal SSI are caused by enteric (gut) bacteria, rather than skin or environmental sources (Sievert, 2013).
So while we hope to see broader adoption of environmental disinfection technologies in the coming years, we have to recognize that we cannot eliminate SSI without addressing sources of contamination generated during the surgery.