Peter Thompson’s QI project reduces post-op breast implant infection rates

May 2020

Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Peter Thompson, MD, recently completed Emory's Faculty Development Course in Quality Improvement. The course is conducted in evening workshops spanning six months, allowing medical and nursing faculty to slot the sessions into their schedules. Faculty participants must have a project and recruit a team that includes at least one trainee and one non-physician health professional. A poster presentation of the participant's QI project is due at the last class meeting.

Dr. Thompson and his team mounted a project to reduce infection rates following implant-based breast reconstruction. At the outset, the division's infection rate was between 7% and 10%, which often resulted in readmissions. He surveyed the surgeons and found significant variations in their protocols, such as some changing gloves before handling the implant while others didn't, or some soaking implants in an antibiotic solution for more than five minutes while others did so for shorter times or not at all.

The team then reviewed the literature and developed a best-practice protocol for the pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operative phases. Dr. Thompson used the new protocol himself to make sure it was practical, then introduced it to the other surgeons. Using the new protocol, the division recorded three months of infection-free cases before surgeries were suspended for the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Right now we are using the protocol on the Clifton Road campus only, but we plan to expand it to Midtown and Saint Joseph's as well," he says.

Dr. Thompson, who has been appointed chief quality officer for the Division of Plastic Surgery, is quick to credit the course for his success. "I did not have any background in quality improvement, and the course did such a great job of giving us the tools, the organization, and the structure to succeed in these projects," he says. "Any success we've had is totally due to what we were able to learn from this course."

All of the posters are viewable here. Dr. Thompson's poster is third from the top.