MRSA screening information for patients
Patients may be concerned about how MRSA affects their
treatment and about the measures taken to prevent its
Screening for the presence of MRSA is a precautionary step which
can prove vital as many patients entering hospitals have been shown
to be carrying MRSA. if you are positive for MRSA then we can take
measures both to protect you and others from infection with
This leaflet addresses the most commonly asked questions about
MRSA screening and includes a list of sources for further and more
What is MRSA and what can it do?
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a germ
found both in hospitals and in the community. It can be carried
harmlessly on the skin and in the noses of many people without
causing an infection. It is carried more easily on skin that is
broken; for example where there is a rash, a cut or a sore. It can,
however, cause abscesses, boils and sometimes wound infections,
particularly in people who are already unwell.
Why is identifying MRSA important?
Special care is taken with MRSA germs when they are found on
patients in hospital, because the germs are resistant to some
commonly used antibiotics. MRSA may then be more difficult to treat
if it does cause an infection.
For the majority of patients and hospital staff, it poses no threat
How does it spread?
MRSA may be carried in the nose and other body sites of anyone
without causing problems. The germs can spread easily from one
person to another by the hands or clothes and then passed on to the
next person they touch. Careful hand washing and use of alcohol
gels by patients, the staff and visitors and good house keeping to
control dust is important and helps to prevent the germ
How can you tell who has MRSA?
Patients carrying MRSA do not look or feel different, so it can
be found only by growing the germ in a laboratory from swabs taken
from skin and wounds.
Benefits of screening
For those who carry MRSA, it can be treated by the use of
antibiotics and skin treatments.
The only way of knowing who is carrying MRSA is to take swabs of
certain body sites that are likely to carry MRSA (these may include
nose, axilla, groin and wounds). A cotton bud will be used to take
a sample. This will not hurt you and takes only a few minutes. This
process is called MRSA Screening and will be carried out by the
health care worker at the pre-operative assessment clinic or Out
Identifying patients with MRSA and treating them reduces the
risk of this infection following surgery.
Who is screened?
1. Patients who are going to have operations including
orthopaedic, neurosurgery and cardiac surgery
2. Patients who are going to have other surgical procedures
considered as high risk
3. Patients who are transferred from one hospital to another, or
from one ward to another
4. Patients who have had MRSA infections in the past or have skin
disorders or slow to heal wounds
5. Patients who have been living in care homes
6. Patients who are already in hospital and may have been in
contact with somebody who is found to have MRSA
7. Patients who are healthcare workers
If MRSA is identified
If a patient is found to be carrying MRSA, then they will
require treatment. This could mean delaying the operation.
You may also have treatment when you come into the hospital for
your surgery and may be given specific antibiotics which will
reduce the risk of infection following surgery/procedure.
What does the treatment involve?
The treatment can consist of a liquid soap for washing, a powder
for the skin and an ointment for the nose.
This can be completed whilst you are at home before you are
admitted for your operation.
If you develop an infection whilst you are in hospital then
antibiotics may be required.
More information about MRSA
You can find more in depth information about MRSA by visiting
the Health Protection Agency website at www.hpa.org.uk.
The Department of Health has published ‘A simple guide to MRSA’
which is available at www.dh.gov.uk.
If you have any questions about MRSA and our infection control
policies, please contact the hospital and staff will arrange for a
member of the Infection Control Team to get in touch with you.