By: Diane Dohm, Infection Prevention Program
A surgical site infection occurs after surgery in the part of the body where surgery took place. Most patients who have surgery do not develop an infection. However, infections develop in about 1-3 of every 100 persons who have surgery.
What can you do to help prevent surgical infections?
Before your surgery, discuss your medical conditions with your doctor. Health problems such as diabetes, allergies and obesity can affect your outcome:
- If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking increases your risk of infection as well as pneumonia after surgery.
- Walk or exercise daily if possible to improve your lung function.
- Do not shave the area near the surgical site the night before surgery or the morning of surgery. This may also include your legs and under your arms. Shaving can cause skin irritation and small nicks in your skin which may make it easier to develop an infection.
- Your doctor may test you for Staph, a kind of germ, by swabbing your nose.
- The night before surgery or the morning of surgery, clean your body and the site of surgery with a special product (soap or wipes) to reduce the number of germs on your body. Your doctor will instruct you on what to use and how to use it. Once you arrive at the hospital, your healthcare providers will clean your skin again.
- After using the soap or wipes, put on clean, freshly laundered clothing. If possible, place clean sheets on your bed.
After your surgery, there are also things you can do to help prevent infections:
- All health care providers, family and friends should clean their hands with alcohol gel or soap and water before and after visiting you. If you do not see them do this, it is ok to ask them to clean their hands.
- Avoid touching your wound. Always clean your hands before and after caring for your wound and changing dressings as instructed by your doctor.
- Your doctor will provide guidelines for your activity. Deep breathing and increasing your activity as allowed will decrease risk for pneumonia and blood clots.
After discharge from the hospital, follow the instructions given to you by your doctor. If you develop any signs of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgical site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor.
Your doctor, nurses, and other healthcare professionals also do many things to prevent infections after surgery. Some of the things they do include:
- Cleansing their hands and arms with special soaps just prior to surgery.
- Wearing special hair covers, masks, gowns and gloves during surgery to keep the surgery area clean.
- Cleansing the skin at the site of surgery with special antiseptics.
- Antibiotics may be given prior, during, or after surgery as needed.
Working together as a team will help insure a successful recovery.