Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become a prevalent nosocomial pathogen worldwide. The objectives of this study were to assess the morbidity and cost associated with the treatment of head and neck cancer patients who become colonized or infected with MRSA following major surgical procedures.
We present a retrospective review of patients who underwent major surgery for head and neck cancer over a one year period and who then became MRSA positive in the post-operative period.
MRSA affected 25/55 (45 per cent) patients who underwent major head and neck procedures during the period studied. The mean time of diagnosis was 13 days post-surgery. Morbidity included cellulitis, osteomyelitis and MRSA pneumonia. Thirteen of the patients who became MRSA positive (52 per cent of the MRSA group) required further surgery including plate removal, new flap formation and wound debridement as a result of the infection. Average in-hospital stay was almost three times more prolonged for patients who became MRSA positive compared to those who did not have MRSA. The costs of the first hospital stay were over three times more in the MRSA-positive group of patients. Antibiotic costs were increased by £2470 per patient because of MRSA.
The extra stay in hospital, together with extra days in intensive care, extra medical and nursing care and additional costly antibiotic treatment, led to major cost implications and loss of health service resources in the unit.
MRSA infection is a serious cause of morbidity in any surgical group of patients and this study focuses on the consequences for treatment of head and neck cancer patients in particular.