Fifteen per cent of patients admitted to a male general surgical ward were found to be carrying Haemophilus influenzae. Except for patients with chronic bronchitis, who developed an infection with the same micro-organism, carriage did not predispose patients to postoperative chest infection. Age, heavy smoking, and abdominal surgery increased the likelihood of respiratory infection after operation. H influenzae accounted for 58% of bacterial pathogens isolated from sputum, and most infections occurred within 48 hours of operation. Chemotyping showed that most infections were caused by different strains, and cross infection by H influenzae seemed to be rare. Cefuroxime given during anaesthesia did not prevent postoperative chest infection.
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