Surgical Site Infection

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: July 28, 2022

What is a surgical site infection?

A surgical site infection is an infection that happens in the incision or deep tissue around the surgical site, within 30 days of the surgery. There is a risk of infection after any surgery. There are patient and surgical factors that may add 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, and type of cancer).
  • Medications that the patient takes.

Surgical factors are:

  • Type of surgery.
  • Area of the body.
  • Surgical technique.
  • Use of antibiotics before the surgery to prevent infection.

How can you prevent a surgical site infection?

There are a number of ways to prevent surgical infection:

  • Tell your surgeon and care team if you have diabetes. Maintaining a normal blood sugar is important to prevent infection.
  • Tell your surgeon and care team about all medications you are taking and the reason.
  • Follow the instructions your care team has given you on how to bathe 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. 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.

What are the signs and symptoms of a surgical site infection?

  • Redness, swelling, new pain, or tenderness at the surgical site.
  • Fever. Your care team will tell you at what temperature you should call them.
  • Pus, foul odor, or new drainage from the surgical site (drainage immediately after surgery is normal).
  • A surgical wound that reopens.

When should I contact my care team?

If you have any of the signs of infection listed above, contact your care provider right away.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines for the Prevention of Surgical Site Infection, 2017. Found at:

MedLine Plus. Surgical wound infection. Found at:

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