Silence is golden during eye injections

If you’re getting a drug injection for macular degeneration or another eye condition, a new study suggests you might want to make sure your doctor doesn’t talk while doing the procedure.

Researchers found that in just a few minutes of talking over an imaginary patient, unmasked volunteers spewed out bacteria which could potentially land on eyes or injection needles and cause infection.

One in every few thousand injections for vision loss results in a serious eye infection called endophthalmitis, which at its worst can cause patients to go blind completely. But because patients typically need frequent injections, as many as 1 in 200 eventually get the infection.

Some of those infections are caused by a type of bacterium, Streptococcus, that’s common in the mouth and also leads to bad breath and cavities.

The new finding “doesn’t prove anything conclusively,” said study author Dr. Colin McCannel, from the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Still, he said, “My advice to patients would be, until the injection is complete … minimize conversation or talking with the physician.”

Both Wykoff and McCannel didn’t go so far as to say that doctors should always wear face masks during the eye injections — but they did say that if possible, both doctors and patients should try to keep talking to a minimum.

At the very least, “physicians should minimize conversation,” McCannel told Reuters Health. “I’ve started using a face mask, because that way I can talk to the patient and have less concern of contamination.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/qSk9yg Archives of Ophthalmology, online August 8, 2011.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/11/us-eye-injections-idUSTRE77A6J820110811

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