Background: Prophylactic antibiotics are commonly prescribed intra-operatively after caesarean section birth, often at high doses. Even so, wound infections are not uncommon and obesity increases the risk. Currently, no independent wound assessment technology is available to stratify women to low or high risk of surgical site infection (SSI). Study Aim: to investigate the potential of non-invasive infrared thermography (IRT), performed at short times after surgery, to predict later SSI. Methods: IRT was undertaken in hospital on day 2 with community follow up (days 7, 15, 30) after surgery. Thermal maps of wound site and abdomen were accompanied by digital photographs, the latter used for wound assessment by six experienced healthcare professionals. Confirmatory diagnosis of SSI was made on the basis of antibiotic prescribing by the woman's community physician with logistic regression models derived to model dichotomous outcomes. Results: Fifty-three women aged 21-44 years with BMI 30.1-43.9 Kg.m - 2 were recruited. SSI rate (within 30 days) was 28%. Inter-rater variability for 'professional' opinion of wound appearance showed poor levels of agreement. Two regions of interest were interrogated; wound site and abdomen. Wound site temperature was consistently elevated (1.5 °C) above abdominal temperature with similar values at days 2,7,15 in those who did and did not, develop SSI. Mean abdominal temperature was lower in women who subsequently developed SSI; significantly so at day 7. A unit (1 °C) reduction in abdominal temperature was associated with a 3-fold raised odds of infection. The difference between the sites (wound minus abdomen temperature) was significantly associated with odds of infection; with a 1 °C widening in temperature associated with an odds ratio for SSI of 2.25 (day 2) and 2.5 (day 7). Correct predictions for wound outcome using logistic regression models ranged from 70 to 79%; Conclusions: IRT imaging of wound and abdomen in obese women undergoing c-section improves upon visual (subjective) wound assessment. The proportion of cases correctly classified using the wound-abdominal temperature differences holds promise for precision and performance of IRT as an independent SSI prognostic tool and future technology to aid decision making in antibiotic prescribing.
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- Department of Allied Health Professions, Sport and Exercise - Reader
- School of Human and Health Sciences
- Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention - Member
- Centre for Applied Research in Health - Member
- Centre for Biomarker Research - Associate Member