Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection in a cardiac surgical unit

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2002 Jan;123(1):40-4. doi: 10.1067/mtc.2002.118505.


Background: Increased antibiotic resistance of common bacteria is attributed in part to the widespread use of various antibiotic agents. Prophylactic and therapeutic antibiotic treatments are routinely used in cardiac surgical units, and it is no surprise that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection is becoming a major cause of surgical infections in cardiac patients.

Methods: We reviewed our experience with patients who underwent cardiac surgery and experienced infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Between 1992 and 2000 at the Montreal Heart Institute, 39 patients had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus surgical infections, and 13,199 patients underwent cardiac surgery. The yearly incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, the relative risk of acute mediastinitis and of superficial wound infections or other types of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection episodes, and the effect of preventive measures were analyzed.

Results: The annual incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus acute mediastinitis decreased from 0.37% (5/1321) of cardiac patients in 1992 and 0.44% (6/1355) in 1993 to 0% between 1994 and 1997, 0.13% (2/1528) in 1999, and 0% (0/1700) in 2000. The total incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, including mediastinitis, superficial and deep sternal and leg wound infection, and all systemic infection episodes ranged from 0.68% of patients in 1992 and 0.96% of patients in 1993 to 0.46% of patients in 1999 and 0.53% of patients in 2000. The relative risk of severe mediastinal methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection to all other methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection episodes decreased from 1.65 in 1992 to 0.41 in 1999 and 0 in 2000. Beginning in 1993, all patients given a diagnosis methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection and all nasal carriers of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus were strictly isolated on the surgical unit, and vancomycin was used as the prophylactic antibiotic agent for cardiac surgery in these patients. Moreover, since 1998, all patients admitted in the hospital were screened, and nasal carriers were isolated and treated with topical antibiotic ointment.

Conclusion: Mediastinal and other infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus have a significant morbidity in cardiac surgical patients. After an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus mediastinal infections, several preventive measures to control methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus contamination of surgical patients were implemented (nasal screening, preventive isolation, application of mupirocin, prophylaxis with vancomycin and alcohol gels) and were effective in decreasing the incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection and mediastinitis after cardiac surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis
  • Cardiac Care Facilities
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Carrier State / diagnosis
  • Carrier State / drug therapy
  • Cross Infection / drug therapy
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leg / surgery
  • Mediastinitis / etiology
  • Mediastinitis / microbiology
  • Mediastinitis / therapy
  • Methicillin Resistance*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Preoperative Care
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / microbiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / therapy