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Serratia marcescens surgical wound infection following breast reconstruction


Surgical wound infections due to gram-negative bacilli have been rarely reported following breast implant surgery. From April to November 1989, four patients from one plastic surgeon’s practice developed Serratia marcescens surgical wound infection (SWI) following breast reconstruction procedures with implantation of six expandable mammary implants. All six implants were removed for unabated S. marcescens SWI. Symptoms developed 13-161 days (median, 66 days) after surgery. When compared with nonexpandable silicone breast implants used during the period November 1, 1988, to October 31, 1989, expandable implants were associated with a greater risk of S. marcescens SWI (4/10 versus 0/11 patients, p = 0.04). Epidemiologic studies revealed that infection was associated with saline expansion of the implants performed in the surgeon’s office. S. marcescens was cultured from a bag of commercial saline used on at least two of the four patients with SWI; the isolate from the saline and the three available patient isolates had identical serotype (O-undetermined:H4) and antimicrobial susceptibility patterns. Review of office procedures revealed that hands were not routinely washed before and aseptic technique was not used during the expansion procedure. Cultures of unopened bags of saline and an unused expandable implant were sterile. We hypothesize that multiple use of saline bags and nonsterile expansion technique extrinsically contaminated saline solutions and resulted in implant and/or surgical site infection. This investigation underscores the importance of avoiding multiple use of solutions intended for single use and of using aseptic technique when manipulating prosthetic devices.

Pegues DA, Shireley LA, Riddle CF, Anderson RL, Vess RW, Hill BC, Jarvis WR

Am. J. Med. 1991 Sep;91(3B):173S-178S

PMID: 1928161