Two operating theatres at a Sheffield hospital will be shut for months after a spate of infections among patients.
The facilities at the Royal Hallamshire were closed after more than 20 patients who underwent hip or knee replacements developed deep wound infections.
A Health Protection Agency expert called in to help investigate said ventilation systems were working correctly and medics were not at fault – but an ante-room shared by the theatres might be increasing the risk of bacteria spreading.
Measures are now being planned to reorganise Theatres 3 and 4, with work expected to be complete by September.
Patients booked in for hip or knee surgery are instead undergoing procedures at the Northern General, the private Thornbury Hospital in Ranmoor, or the Care UK centre in Barlborough, Chesterfield.
After surgery, ambulances are being laid on to transfer patients from the Northern General to recover on the orthopaedic ward at the Hallamshire.
A report to a meeting of Sheffield Teaching Hospital’s board of directors today said schedules have not been ‘significantly affected’.
Some lower limb joint operations were moved from the Northern General to the Hallamshire two years ago, to cut the rate of cancelled non-urgent ops.
The increase was noticed in November with infections confirmed in 22 patients. Most of the people affected have had follow-ups and are receiving ‘appropriate treatment’.
Medical director Dr David Throssell said infection rates were usually ‘very low’.
“We cannot be certain that any particular infection is connected to the theatres in which the operations were carried out, because the potential to acquire an infection is a recognised complication of joint replacement surgery, regardless of where the operation is performed,” he said.
“To put this issue into context, we have carried out about 1,400 hip and knee operations in these theatres since January 2012, and 22 patients have experienced a confirmed infection during that time.”