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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Surgeons to get CJD-risk advice
Image of surgical equipment
Surgeons will get equipment advice
An NHS watchdog is to develop guidelines for surgeons to help minimise the risk of contracting CJD infections through operations.

It will advise on surgical procedures and instruments used in operations involving tissues carrying a high or medium risk CJD or Variant CJD.

The finished document is not expected until May 2006.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence will not examine the risks posed by blood transfusions, however.

Last month, 4,000 patients in the UK were sent letters warning them they may have been exposed to vCJD through contaminated blood products.

Stopping transmission

But the NICE guidance will only look at the risk of transmission from tissues that potentially carry CJD and the tools used to operate on these tissues.

CJD is a progressive, fatal neurological disease.

The most high-profile form of the disease, vCJD, is a human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as 'mad-cow disease'.

Tissues that are classed as having a high or medium risk for CJD and vCJD include brain and spinal cord, the front and back of the eye and the inside of the nose.

Patients should be reassured that the risk of developing CJD as a result of any operation is small.
Professor Bruce Campbell, a surgeon and chairman of NICE's sub-committee

Surgery on lymph glands, such as tonsils, also carries the risk of vCJD.

NICE will advise surgeons on whether reusable instruments or disposable instruments should be used in different procedures.

The only way that surgery can be made completely safe is to use disposable instruments for all operations.

However, disposable versions of surgical instruments do not exist for all procedures.

Experts will have to balance the potential risks of transmitting CJD and vCJD via reusable instruments against the risks to patients of using "potentially technically substandard or unreliable disposable instruments", said NICE.

It will also look at the way surgical instruments are sterilised and cleaned.

Professor Bruce Campbell, a surgeon and chairman of the sub-committee said: "Patients should be reassured that the risk of developing CJD as a result of any operation is small.

"Our aim will be to make recommendations on clinical practice which will keep the risk as close to zero as possible."

At present, it is not possible to know what the risk of transmission is.

About one in a million people have CJD and 142 people are known to have died of vCJD since 1996.

Patients to be warned over vCJD
29 Aug 04  |  Health
Mother's fears over vCJD threat
06 Aug 04  |  England

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