What you need to know
Surgical site infection
By Dr. Sergio Mazzei, Specialist in General Surgery
About 1 to 3 out of every 100 patients develop some infection after the surgical intervention. Patients with diabetes have a risk of surgical site infection 50% higher than patients without diabetes. These numbers are not significant until it happens to you.
SSI stands for Surgical Site Infection, an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. It is often caused by bacteria and may develop ten days to several weeks after surgery. Remember: most of the patients who have surgery will not have an infection of any kind. But if it happens and remains without treatment, the infection may spread to deeper tissues or organs close to the surgery area.
Even though it can happen to anyone, some patients are more at risk. The risk increases if the patient has medical conditions that cause a weak immune system: the most common of all is diabetes, no matter what the patient’s BMI is, if he/she uses steroids to strength his/her immune system, has narrow or blocked blood vessels, smokes or is overweight, is older, or uses some other treatment because of other medical problem he/she might have (radiation or chemotherapy).
To reduce the risk, before the surgery, you must inform your doctor about health problems you might have (allergies, diabetes, obesity), quit smoking (regardless of the intervention), and don’t shave near where you will have surgery.
Before you go home, the doctor or nurse will explain everything you need to know about taking care of the wound, and you should always clean your hands before and after caring for the wound. Do not forget: before going home, you must know whom to contact if you have questions or problems. When at home, care for your wound as directed – keep it clean and dry, and avoid smoking.
But what if you never had a surgery of any kind and not know what condition you can expect and what needs medical attention?
Here are the most common symptoms of an SSI:
- Redness, swelling, and pain near the surgery area
- Red streaks coming from the surgery area
- Blood, fluid, or pus draining from your surgery area
- A foul odor coming from the surgery area
If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your medical provider immediately.
Most SSIs can be treated with antibiotics and proper wound care. Sometimes hyperbaric oxygen therapy is needed. Rarely, patients with SSIs also need another surgery to treat the infection. Most clinical cases require the use of advanced dressings. Only a few cases may require the use of dermal substitutes to cover the wounds (such as hyaluronic acid ester matrix, naturally-occurring bladder matrix, or platelet-rich plasma / PRP).
To find out more, please book an appointment with Dr. Sergio Mazzei here.