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September 1996

Do Surgeons Have a Role as Infectious Disease Consultants?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

Arch Surg. 1996;131(9):990-993. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430210088019

Background:  Antibiotic drug restriction policies have become widespread in North America hospitals mandating medical infectious disease consultation for use of routine antimicrobial agents.

Objective:  To determine physician and institutional attitudes regarding the credibility of surgeons in the area of infectious disease.

Design:  A survey of the Surgical Infectious Disease Society (SIS) membership.

Participants:  Members of the SIS practicing in the United States and Canada (n=464) were sent a simple opinion poll regarding surgical infectious disease specialists. After receiving the survey, the SIS members were given approximately 4 weeks to anonymously complete the questionnaire and return it to our office.

Results:  Responses were received from 198 SIS members (43%). Most were from large (>400 bed) institutions (63%), and the majority of them were from university centers (76%). Predictably, 86% of the respondents were in full-time academic practice. Some SIS respondents (21%) had undergone special training in infectious disease, and of these, 63% actually had completed a formal surgical infectious disease fellowship. Antibiotic restriction policies were nearly universal and required in 87% of institutions. Only 44% of surgeons in these hospitals, however, were privileged to release antibiotic drugs. Medical infectious disease physicians recognized surgical expertise in infectious disease in few instances (32%). The great majority of responding SIS members (81%) believed that an examination or certification in infectious disease for surgeons was not warranted.

Conclusions:  Antibiotic drug restriction is prevalent in North America, and medical infectious disease specialists do not generally recognize surgical expertise in the area of infectious disease. Despite this environment, responding SIS members believe that special credentialing of surgeons in the area of infectious disease is unnecessary.Arch Surg. 1996;131:990-993