Background: The objective of this study was to evaluate the epidemiology of antibiotic-resistant organisms among patients with spinal cord injury admitted to an acute rehabilitation unit for the first time.
Methods: After informed consent, 63 patients with spinal cord injury admitted to an acute rehabilitation unit between January 1997 and July 1998 had surveillance cultures (nares, urine, wounds or ulcers, and perineum) done on admission and every 2 weeks thereafter until discharge or as long as 6 weeks after admission.
Results: Of the 4 surveillance sites, perineal cultures most commonly grew one or more potential pathogens; however, antibiotic-resistant organisms were most often isolated from wounds or ulcers and least often in urine cultures. Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-sensitive plus methicillin-resistant) and enterococci represented 44% of all organisms isolated in surveillance cultures. Methicillin-resistant S aureus was the most common resistant organism isolated. Less than 30% of the gram-negative bacilli isolated were considered antibiotic-resistant strains. Nosocomial infection as a result of any resistant organism was infrequent. After adjusting for various confounding factors in a logistic regression model, only the presence of a pressure ulcer predicted carriage of any resistant organism on admission to the rehabilitation unit. Acquisition of a resistant organism after admission to the unit at one or more surveillance sites occurred in 8 (22%) of 36 patients not colonized on admission.
Conclusions: Methicillin-resistant S aureus was the most common resistant organism colonizing patients with spinal cord injury at the time of admission to an acute rehabilitation unit and throughout their stay. However, acquisition of any resistant organism after admission was uncommon on this unit, which used Standard Precautions in the routine care of patients. These findings have implications for the type of isolation procedures on acute rehabilitation units. The low rate of acquisition and infection with MRSA after admission argues against attempts at eradication as a method of control.