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Staph Screening Before Surgery: About This Test

What is it?

Staph screening is a test to find out if you're a staph carrier. Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a type of bacteria that can cause infections. A carrier is a person who has the bacteria on his or her skin but who isn't sick. The test is done by swabbing the inside of your nose.

Staph bacteria normally live on the skin and in the nose. In most cases, they don't cause problems. They only become a problem when they cause infection. The infection is more likely to be serious in people who are weak or ill or who are being treated in the hospital.

Why is this test done?

A staph screen may be done before your surgery to find out if you are a carrier for the bacteria.

Staph infections are more likely to occur in burns or wounds. This includes places on the body where tubes enter or where the doctor makes cuts (incisions) in the skin. Staph bacteria can cause serious infection where they enter the body. The infection can sometimes spread to other places such as the joints or the heart.

Some types of staph bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics. One example is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

How do you prepare for the test?

  • You don't need to do anything to prepare for this test.
  • Tell your doctor if you have recently taken any antibiotics.

How is the test done?

The doctor will use a clean cotton swab to collect a sample from the inside of the nose.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few seconds.

What happens after the test??

Staph screening results will be ready before your surgery day.

If the test shows that you are a carrier, you will be treated to prevent an infection. The doctor may:

  • Give you antibiotic pills to take before and after your surgery. Or the doctor may give antibiotics through a needle that's put in your vein (IV) during your surgery.
  • Give you an ointment to put on your skin. Or you might get some to put inside your nose.
  • Have you wash your skin with a special antibiotic soap.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

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