Colds and flu

Updated 12 October 2017

Flu shots totally safe for surgery patients

Study findings show hospital stays are a fine time to vaccinate patients against the flu, particularly those who are older and at high risk of complications.

Surgery patients don't have an increased risk for complications if they receive a flu shot in the hospital, a new study suggests.

The findings support routine flu vaccination for surgery patients while hospitalised, the Kaiser Permanente researchers said.

Fever or muscle pain

"Historically, there has been concern among surgeons that vaccinating patients while they are in the hospital can contribute to increased risk of vaccine-related fever or muscle pain, which might be incorrectly attributed to surgical complications," lead author Sara Tartof, from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, said in a Kaiser news release.

Read: Make your own flu shot

"There have been no data to support that concern. In fact, our study findings show hospital stays are a fine time to vaccinate patients, particularly those who are older and at high risk of complications due to the flu," she added.

They examined the medical records of more than 6,400 surgery patients. They all received a flu shot during their hospital stay in the 2010 to 2013 flu seasons.

The researchers compared the folks who got a flu shot with more than 36,000 surgery patients who were vaccinated before or after being in the hospital, or who weren't vaccinated for flu.

Read: Why there's no cure for the common cold

Those given a flu shot while in the hospital didn't have higher rates of emergency department visits or hospital readmissions, fever or laboratory tests for infections in the weeks after leaving the hospital than those who were not vaccinated, the study showed.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Hospital patients who are eligible should receive the flu vaccine before discharge, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

Read more: 

What is flu? 

Symptoms of flu

A cold or flu? Here's what to do


Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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