Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Researchers beginning to explore microbiome’s effect on surgical outcomes



– Surgery seems to stimulate abrupt changes in both the skin and gut microbiome, which in some patients may increase the risk of surgical-site infections and anastomotic leaks. With that knowledge, researchers are exploring the very first steps toward a presurgical microbiome optimization protocol, Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS, said at the annual clinical congress of the American College of Surgeons.

It’s very early in the journey, said Dr. Nelson, the Fred C. Andersen Professor of Surgery at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. The path is not straightforward because the human microbiome appears to be nearly as individually unique as the human fingerprint, so presurgical protocols might have to be individually tailored to each patient.

Dr. Nelson comoderated a session exploring this topic with John Alverdy, MD, FACS, of the University of Chicago. The panel discussed human and animal studies suggesting that the stress of surgery, when combined with subclinical ischemia and any baseline physiologic stress (chronic illness or radiation, for example), can cause some commensals to begin producing collagenase – a change that endangers even surgically sound anastomoses. The skin microbiome is altered as well, with areas around abdominal incisions beginning to express gut flora, which increase the risk of a surgical-site infection.

Through diet or other presurgical interventions, Dr. Nelson said in a video interview, it might be possible to optimize the microbiome and reduce the chances of some of these occurrences.

She had no financial disclosures.

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