A small, but worrisome number of facelift patients became infected with the antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA, a new study reports.
About one half of 1 percent of people undergoing facelifts developed the so-called "superbug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, doctors from Lennox Hill-Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in New York City reported.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, S. aureus, commonly found on the skin and in the nose of healthy individuals, is associated with bacterial skin infections. MRSA, as its name implies, is a particularly nasty strain of S. aureus that is resistant to the class of antibiotics that includes penicillin, amoxicillin and methicillin.
Traditionally, MRSA, which can cause boils, skin cell death, and even death, has been limited to hospital settings and crowded environments such as prisons. Yet, beginning in 1999, community-associated cases of the disease have been on the rise. Last year, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more Americans died of MRSA than of AIDS in 2005.
"The MRSA issue is societal now and is generally recognized as a risk factor for all surgical procedures," said Dr. Jeffrey C. Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved with the new study, published in the March/April issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
Salomon's suggestion: "Patients should be screened for a history of prior infections and if indicated, patients can be screened with nasal cultures to see if they are MRSA carriers," he said. "A rising issue in cosmetic surgery has been the increase of atypical mycobacterium infections and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients with late onset of infections."
For the new study, Dr. Richard A. Zoumalan and Dr. David B. Rosenberg looked at the medical records of 780 patients who had facelifts at one outpatient surgical center between 2001 and 2007.