Research carried out by the Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention (a collaboration between the Schools of Applied Sciences, Human and Health Sciences, Computing and Engineering and Art, Design and Architecture), has helped to shape policy and practice in the field of surgical site infection (SSI) and wound management. The institute, established in 2014, is building upon previous research by the Skin Interface Sciences Research Group which developed best practice guidance and helped raise practitioner, industry and public awareness of the importance of effective clinical interventions in infection prevention, tissue viability and wound care.
Widespread infection a burden for hospitals
Over 5 per cent of patients in the UK undergoing surgery acquire an SSI, and three quarters of the deaths following SSIs are due to this infection. SSIs account for around 15-20 per cent of all healthcare-associated infections, leading to increased morbidity and mortality, additional costs and longer stays in hospital.
The Institute is helping to address these concerns by promoting effective clinical care in tissue viability and wound care. Much of this work has focused on how wound complication rates, post-operative surgical blisters and the healing and infection of chronic wounds are affected by the choice of dressing.
Improving efficiency of antiseptics
Antiseptics can contribute to SSIs as they often exhibit restricted penetration into the skin, limiting their efficacy against microorganisms when the protective skin barrier is breached during surgery. A collaboration between the University of Huddersfield, University Hospital Birmingham and Aston University investigated the factors controlling the release and effectiveness of the antiseptic, chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), released from a drug-impregnated gel dressing. The study revealed that the CHG gel dressing could maintain antimicrobial activity for up to seven days, potentially suppressing bacterial growth and helping to prevent infection.
Informing best practice
The team at Huddersfield has conducted an on-line survey of international experts producing best practice guidance for the prevention of surgical wound blistering. Based on contributions from respondents in Scandinavia, India, Australia and the US, the consensus emerged that an ideal wound dressing should easily conform to the wound, allow for swelling and have simple application and removal, thus minimising pain for the patient.
An e-learning resource, Challenges in Wound Care, has also helped to develop and support best practice in this area by drawing on the Institute’s experience. Using a problem-based structure to address questions surrounding the assessment, diagnosis and management of various wound care scenarios, it promotes the importance of working in a multidisciplinary team to achieve optimum outcomes for patients.
These projects have helped to shape policy and practice in areas including planning interventions, quality of life and well-being – which are vital if patients are to receive evidence-based, cost-effective treatment. This work has contributed to a series of influential Best Practice Statements, including The Use of Topical Antiseptic/Antimicrobial Agents in Wound Management. This publication is widely used as evidence to support NHS Trust development and to guide the use of appropriate dressings for the management of wound infection.