Patient Education - Surgical Site Infections

What is a Surgical Site Infection?

  • An infection is considered to be a SURGICAL SITE infection when it occurs at the site of surgery within 30 days of an operation or within 1 year of an operation if a foreign body (e.g., screws, pins, lens implants) is implanted as part of the surgery.
  • Most SURGICAL SITE infections (about 70%) are superficial infections involving the skin only. The remaining infections are more serious and can involve tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material.
  • The majority of SURGICAL SITE infections do not become life-threatening.

Cool Springs Surgery Center does the following to decrease Surgical Site infections:

  • Use clippers for hair removal instead of shaving.
  • Antimicrobial scrubs prior to surgery/procedure.
  • Hand washing before and after contact with patients.

What can patients do to protect themselves?

While at the Surgery Center:

  • Ask about the facility’s infection control program and any procedures that can help reduce infection risk. Let doctors and nurses know that you are concerned about preventing infections while receiving care.
  • Be certain your healthcare providers are aware of any medications you currently take. This includes all prescription and over-the-counter medications, home remedies, and dietary supplements. You should also mention any food allergies (e.g. shellfish) that you have. Ask if there are special instructions about taking your medications before and after the procedure.
  • If you are diabetic, be sure that you and your doctor discuss the best way to control your blood sugar before, during, and after your surgery/procedure. High blood sugar increases the risk of infection.
  • Wash your hands carefully after handling any type of soiled material or body fluids. This is especially important after you have gone to the bathroom.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and if you have sinus drainage (runny nose) use tissue often. Wash your hands regularly.
  • Since you are part of your healthcare team, do not be afraid to remind doctors or nurses to clean their hands. This includes washing their hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub before working with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, or pain medications.
  • Do not let anyone give you medications without checking your surgery center ID bracelet. This helps prevent you from getting someone else’s medications.

At Home:

  • Signs and symptoms of a SURGICAL SITE infection can include fever and redness, swelling, heat, or pain at the surgical wound site.
  • Drainage of cloudy fluid or sudden opening of the surgical wound can also suggest a SURGICAL SITE infection.
  • If your surgery site has a dressing, keep it clean and dry.
  • Patients should receive instructions from their doctor before surgery explaining what to look for and what to do if they think they might have an infection.
  • Contact your doctor immediately if any of these occur, especially after you have been discharged from a surgery center.