Surgical Site Infection

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: August 7, 2018

There is a risk of infection after any surgery. A surgical site infection is an infection that happens in the incision or deep tissue around the operation site, within 30 days of the surgery. Both patient and surgical factors contribute to the risk of getting a surgical site infection.

Patient factors are:

  • age 
  • overall health
  • nutritional status
  • alcohol or tobacco use
  • other health issues (such as diabetes, vascular disease, type of cancer) 
  • medications that are being taken

Surgical factors are: 

  • type of surgery
  • area of the body
  • surgical technique 
  • use of antibiotics before the surgery to prevent infection

Management

There are a number of ways to prevent surgical infection:

  • Tell your surgeon if you have diabetes. Maintaining a normal blood sugar is important to prevent infection. 
  • Tell your surgeon about all medications you are taking and the reason.
  • Follow the instructions given to you for bathing before your procedure.
  • Keep warm before and after surgery. Wear warm cloths and wrap in blankets before and after surgery. Body temperature has a major influence on the risk of infection after surgery and the surgical team will keep you warm during the procedure.
  • If you are ordered antibiotics to take before surgery take them as instructed.
  • Wash your hands before touching the wound or changing dressings.

When to contact your care team

If you are showing signs of infection at any time, contact your care provider. Common signs of infection are:

  • Redness, swelling, new pain or tenderness at the surgical site.
  • Fever.
  • Pus, foul odor or new drainage from the surgical site (drainage immediately after surgery is normal).
  • A surgical wound that reopens.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection, 2017. Found at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/fullarticle/2623725

MedLine Plus. Surgical wound infection. Found at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007645.htm

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