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B. A Simple Way to Reduce the Risk of Surgical Infection

Narrator: This is Science Today. A new study has found that boosting up the oxygen during surgical procedures can cut a patient's risk of post-operative infection in half. Lead author Dr. Daniel Sessler, a professor of anesthesia at the University of California, San Francisco, says white blood cells called neutrophils need oxygen to kill the bacteria that cause infection.

Sessler: The killing actually uses oxygen. It takes oxygen and turns it into something called a free radical, which is actually a poisonous substance, which is then injected into the bacteria to kill them. The speed of this process depends on the amount of oxygen in the tissues.

Narrator: All it takes during surgery is turning two knobs up and supplying the patient with about three cents worth more oxygen.

Sessler: Most patients do not get infected after surgery. Surgical infections are relatively rare, but they are very serious, very expensive complications. So, decreasing the incidence of this complication is well worth doing.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.