, West Somerville, NJ) be applied at the end of every procedure to assist thoroughly with postoperative hemostasis. Just this year, in response to several reports of post-circumcision staphylococcal infections arising most likely from poor sterilization techniques,2 many hospitals around the country have further refined their circumcision procedure policies. They now require that all persons in the room are to be gowned, masked, and gloved. Vials of lidocaine may be used only once and then must be discarded. Leg restraints may no longer be cleaned, but must be disposed of. Parents are barred from observing the procedure, and only 1 infant can be in the procedure room at a time. Whether male newborn circumcision is an appropriate procedure to start with is a discussion for another time.
The issue under review here is not the circumcision procedure itself, but its cost. Although the actual circumcision technique has probably changed little since the time of Abraham, its cost has exploded (even when adjusted for early Semitic currency inflation). However well intended, each refinement adds additional and incremental costs to the procedure. Sterile steel instruments cost more than a sharpened stone. Local anesthesia adds cost. Surgicel adds cost. One-on-one nursing staff need to be reimbursed for their time, which adds cost. Disposable gloves, gowns, masks, and leg straps add cost. Reduced efficiency adds cost. And then there are the exorbitant indirect expenses such as malpractice costs. Despite these comments, looking at the procedure today, it is difficult to see where significant cost savings can be achieved.
Withholding anesthesia from newborn infants is no longer appropriate. Local nurses�� unions determine staffing requirements, and State Departments of Public Health are responsible for issuing guidelines about sterile technique with a view to optimizing patient safety. And the cost of a small piece of Surgicel seems reasonable to reduce bleeding complications, however rare they may be. Although a zero-tolerance policy toward adverse events is laudable, such an approach has to be tempered by reasonable judgment. As the rising cost of healthcare in the United States takes center stage, clinical and political leaders have some difficult choices to make. What is clear is that the current system is not sustainable.
Resources are not unlimited, and difficult and unpopular decisions will have to be made to determine where we as a society are willing to sacrifice quality and what impact such restrictions will have on the public at large. As illustrated above for newborn circumcision, costs can easily get out of control when catch phrases such as ��patient safety�� are used to trump common sense and cost-containment efforts. Changes in practice should AV-951 be instituted only once they have been shown to offer both an improvement over existing practices and to be cost effective.