Preventing surgical site infections
A surgical site infection, or SSI, is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body that was operated on. Most patients who have surgery do not develop an infection; however, surgery patients are at risk for surgical site infections. The surgical staff takes many precautions to prevent infection, and there are steps that you and your family can take when you go home.
Avoiding an SSI starts before you go to the hospital
Here are some things you can do to promote your health before surgery:
- Smoking cessation. Postop healing complications occur significantly more often in smokers than in nonsmokers, so if you smoke, you should strongly consider stopping prior to surgery.
- Control your blood sugar. Blood glucose levels can play a large role in healing. If you are a diabetic, you should closely monitor your blood glucose, keep your levels well controlled and make sure you have your A1C checked before surgery.
- Avoid shaving. Don’t shave near the area that will be operated on. If hair needs to be removed, it will be clipped at the hospital.
- Skin cleansers. Use any cleansing products and instructions the surgeon provided. Generally, skin cleansing is done the night before surgery and in the morning when you arrive at the hospital.
Your role at the hospital
Speak up! Tell us if we aren’t washing our hands or using hand sanitizer when we enter or leave your room.
Stay informed. Read the information you are given on caring for yourself at home.
What the hospital staff does to prevent SSIs:
• Evaluates tobacco use
• Evaluates blood glucose control for diabetic patients
• Promotes pre-surgery skin cleansing per the surgeon’s instructions
• Uses nasal iodine swabbing within one hour of surgery (certain surgical procedures)
• Provides hair removal if necessary; we will clip, not shave, hair
• Administers appropriate antibiotic based on procedure type and patient health history – this is given in surgery
• Maintains normal body temperature throughout surgery and during recovery
• Washes hands or uses hand sanitizer before and after all patient interactions
At home after discharge
• Continue hand washing and using sanitizer for yourself and your visitors.
• If you are prescribed antibiotics make sure you complete the entire course.
• Care for your surgical site as instructed. Don’t remove the bandage unless instructed by the surgeon to do so. Be sure to clean your hands before touching your dressing or surgical site.
• Keep your blood glucose levels within normal range.
• Refrain from using nicotine.
- Note: If you have any symptoms of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever call your doctor immediately.