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Surgeon-to-Patient HIV Transmission Risk Very Low, CDC Report Says

January 9, 2009

The risk of an HIV-positive surgeon transmitting the virus to a patient is very low, according to a report published Friday in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters Health reports. The report, conducted by M.J. Schwaber of the Israeli Ministry of Health and colleagues, examines the case of an Israeli heart surgeon who had practiced for about 20 years and performed about 150 operations each year. The surgeon in January 2007 tested positive for HIV, after which the health ministry instructed hospitals to offer HIV tests to all patients on whom the surgeon had operated since 1997. Of the 1,669 former patients identified, 545 agreed to take an HIV test. According to the report, all 545 former patients tested negative for HIV.

The report's findings are consistent with earlier studies indicating that surgeon-to-patient HIV transmission is very rare, the authors report. They add that this report and others should encourage public health groups and medical centers to revise guidelines targeted at HIV-positive health workers who perform invasive procedures (Reuters Health, 1/8). Israel's health ministry has recommended that the surgeon can return to work without restrictions on the types of procedures he or she could perform and that prospective patients do not need to be informed of his or her HIV status -- all provided that sufficient infection control measures are followed (MMWR, 1/9).

Online The report is available online.

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