But a simple new device that costs about three hundred dollars is improving the odds against infections.
Kurt Czupryn is walking with a new right hip. He had hip replacement surgery two months ago.
"I returned to work after two weeks, so my life kinda got normal real fast after that," he said.
His recovery was fast because he had no infection, which creates huge complications. To reduce his infection risk, his operating room had this extra piece of equipment. It looks like a vacuum cleaner; but instead of sucking air in, it blows clean air out, right across the incision.
"The air forms a barrier between the air in the operating room and the wound itself," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Clyburn.
The air barrier is about two inches deep. Dr. Clyburn has used the air barrier in about 100 hip replacement surgeries.
"When I first started to use it I was like turn it on, it's not on. I can't feel any air and I can't hear anything," he said.
Operating rooms have air filtration systems and, of course, sterile instruments and procedures. But thousands continue getting deadly surgical infections. Some occur through airborne particles that dont' get filtered. But in one study, the air barrier reduced bacteria at the incision site by 84 percent.
The device, which was invented here in Houston, is now being tested in different types of surgeries.
It's FDA approved for hip replacements, but they're using it in spine surgeries, and some heart surgeons are interested in it too.
"I'm pleased we tried it, happy it worked out so well and look forward to it becoming something that's more standard," Czupryn said.
"It's one of those things that you go, why didn't I think of that it's so simple," Dr. Clyburn said.
Hip replacement patients can request the air barrier for their surgeries. It's portable and can be wheeled right into the operating room. It's being used at the Houston Orthopedic and Spine Hospital, formerly known as Foundation Surgical Hospital.