Know the basics
What is surgical site infection?
Surgical site infections (SSIs), previously called surgical wound infections, account for about 17% of infections in hospitalized people. They’re classified as superficial incisional, deep incisional, or organ/space SSIs. Most SSIs occur within 2 weeks of surgery, although deep incisional and organ/space SSIs may occur after a longer delay.
How common is surgical site infection?
SSIs occur in 2 to 3% of all operated people. You can minimized the chance of having hernias by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of surgical site infection?
Symptoms depend on the kind of SSI. They include:
- Pus draining from the incision,
- Feeling pain when touching the wound
- Tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
When you are in the recovery process after the surgery, you should consult with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms listed above. If you had come home, you should go to hospital immediately, so the doctor can treat the infection as soon as possible. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation. Beside, bacteria normally found on the skin such as staphylococci and streptococci are the most common cause of SSIs.
Know the causes
What causes surgical site infection?
Risks of getting SSIs are related to the kind and location in the body of the operation, how long it lasts, the surgeon’s skill, and how well the person’s immune system can fight infections. When the surgical site involves the perineum, intestines, genital or urinary system, coliform and anaerobic bacteria may be associated with SSI.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for surgical site infection?
Risks of getting SSIs are related to the kind and location in the body of the operation, how long it lasts, the surgeon’s skill, and how well the person’s immune system can fight infections. Operations that involve body parts damaged by earlier trauma or areas of infection present prior to surgery are more risky. Operations that involve implanted medical devices (artificial hips and knees, shunts, stents, heart valves, etc.) are also at higher risk for SSIs. Advanced age, diabetes mellitus, high sugar (glucose) levels, obesity, malnutrition, and smoking increase the risk of SSIs. Low body temperature during surgery, blood loss, transfusion, and presence of another infection in the body are additional risk factors.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is surgical site infection diagnosed?
The look of the incision will help diagnosis. Finding bacteria from the incision or drainage by staining and culture will confirm the diagnosis. Other laboratory tests can also be done.
How is surgical site infection treated?
The most important treatment for SSIs is re-opening the surgical incision to clean out the infected material (dead tissue and foreign bodies). Gauze dressings are the used on the wound and changed several times a day. This allows most SSIs heal by secondary intention. This means that the open wound heals from the bottom upwards by making new tissue. Antibiotics may be prescribed at the time the wound is cleaned out and for a few days after. Treatment may be extended if there are signs that the infection is invasive and especially if a fever is present.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage surgical site infection?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with surgical site infections:
- Follow your health care provider’s directions, especially about how to take care of the surgical wound site.
- Hand-washing is the best way to prevent infections
- Take prescribed antibiotics until they’re finished.
- Ask family and friends to wash their hands well with soap and water before visiting with you.
- Don’t miss follow-up appointments with your health care provider.
- Don’t smoke
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017