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Narrow-Spectrum UV Light May Reduce Surgical Infections

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Despite major efforts to keep operating rooms sterile, surgical wound infections remain a serious and stubborn problem, killing up to 8,200 patients a year in the U.S. A study by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers suggests that narrow-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) light could dramatically reduce such infections without damaging human tissue. The study, conducted in tissue culture, was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Approximately 200,000 to 300,000 patients suffer surgical wound infections in the U.S. each year, accounting for $3 billion to $10 billion in health-care expenditures, the researchers report. Patients with surgical wound infections, compared with those without such infections, are 60 percent more likely to spend time in an ICU, are five times as likely to be readmitted to the hospital, have twice the mortality rate, have longer hospital stays, and have roughly double the total health-care costs.

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