Olympic Swimmer Ian Thorpe Hospitalized with Severe Wound Infection

Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe’s amazing swimming career may be over.

The 31-year-old five-time Olympic gold medal winner, who has been nicknamed the Thorpedo, is hospitalized in Sydney Australian with a severe infection following shoulder surgery. His agent, James Erskine, told the Australian Associated Press:

“He’s contracted two forms of bugs in hospital. He’s undergone two or three operations over the last two months so … I mean bad luck. He’s quite sick but that’s the situation.”

He added: “From a competitive point of view – he will not be swimming competitively again I don’t think.”

Thorpe originally underwent a series of surgeries on his shoulder at a hospital near his home in the Swiss town of Ronco sopra Ascona. A number of metal plates were inserted as part of the procedure. There is some concern that Thorpe could lose the use of that arm. He is currently receiving large doses of antibiotics.

Thorpe was hospitalized earlier this year for depression, when he was found disoriented in Sydney. The episode was exacerbated by the combination of anti-depressants and prescription pain medication he was taking after his shoulder surgeries. In his 2012 autobiography, This is Me, Thorpe talks about his 10 year battle with depression.

 What do I need to know about surgical site infections (SSIs)?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)  a surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Most patients who have surgery do not develop an infection. However, infections develop in about 1 to 3 out of every 100 patients who have surgery.

Some of the common symptoms of a surgical site infection are:

  • Redness and pain around the area where you had surgery
  • Drainage of cloudy fluid from your surgical wound
  • Fever

What causes SSI’s ?

ssi pathogensAll surgical wounds are contaminated to some extent by microbes, but in most cases, infection does not develop because innate host defenses are efficient enough to eliminate these contaminants. The organisms that are most commonly involved are those that normally reside on or in the patient’s body- i.e. those on the skin, in the mouth, or in the bowels. The most common group of bacteria responsible for SSIs are Staphylococcus aureus.

Of particular concern is a subgroup of S. aureus called Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA).MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics. Studies show that about one in three people carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness. Two in 100 people carry MRSA.

Problems arise in the treatment of infections with MRSA because antibiotic choice is very limited. Unfortunately, MRSA infections appear to be increasing in frequency and are showing resistance to a wider range of antibiotics

Can SSIs be treated?

Yes. Most surgical site infections can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic given to you depends on the bacteria (germs) causing the infection. Sometimes patients with SSIs also need additional surgery to treat the infection.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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