Post operative infections are a concern following any type of surgery. Since the skin is the body’s largest natural barrier against infection, anything that causes a break in the skin has the potential to lead to an infection. Post operative infections pose a threat to the health and well being of a patient, and can put a patient’s life in jeopardy. Physicians and other caregivers are constantly striving to make improvements which will decrease the risk of post operative infections.
Types of Post Operative Infections
The most common site of post operative infections is the surgery site on the body. If infection occurs at the surgery site, it is called a surgical site infection, or SSI. SSIs occur following about one to three percent of all surgeries. According to the CDC, there are three types of surgical site infections, superficial incisional SSI, deep incisional SSI, and organ or space SSI.
Other types of post operative infections that may develop include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Staph infections
- Respiratory infections
- Antibiotic related infections
- Sternal infections
- Blood infections
Post Operative infection Occurrence
Post operative infections typically develop within 30 days of surgery. If an implant was placed, infection may still develop up to a year following placement. Between 500,000 and 750,000 post operative infections occur annually in the United States.
Symptoms of Infection
Inflammation is a common symptom of any type of infection in any area of the body. Inflammation usually caused redness, swelling, sensitivity, and warmth in the affected area. Fever and delayed healing may also accompany inflammation and indicate infection.
Discharge from Incision
Discharge or a fluid filled abscess may develop following most types of infection. Medical experts may be able to examine the fluid to determine the characteristics of the infection, including whether it is viral or bacterial. Examining the fluid or other tissue samples from the site of the infection may assist medical experts in identifying effective treatment methods for the specific type of infection.
Post Operative Infections Causes
The most common microorganisms that cause infection following surgeries are the bacteria Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas, but infection may also be caused by other types of bacteria and viruses. Infection inducing microorganisms are usually transferred to the site of the surgery through contact with the surgeons, contact with a surgical tool, or through contaminated air. In some cases, microorganisms are already present in the patient’s body and cause infection due to the weakened immune response following surgery.
Risk Factors for Infection
Certain types of operations carry a higher risk for infection. If a wound is already known to be infected at the time of surgery, the risk of a post operative infection raises to about 40 percent. If an internal organ has been punctured and the contents have spilled into other body areas, the risk of infection following surgery is much greater. Any time an internal organ is involved in surgery the risk for infection is greater than if there is not an internal organ involved.
Other factors which may increase the risk for post operative infections include:
- Age-older or younger patients may be more prone to infection
- Decreased immunity
- Medical issues, especially diabetes or cancer
- Surgery time over two hours
- Having abdominal surgery
Preventing Post Operative Infections
Many steps have been taken by hospitals and care facilities to decrease the risk of post operative infections. Sanitation of surgical tools and surgeons’ hands are constantly being examined by researchers in order to improve upon current sanitation techniques and equipment. Surgical procedures are also being improved in order to decrease exposure to possible contaminants. Less invasive forms of surgery, such as laparoscopic surgery, may be helpful in reducing contact with the patient’s body and exposure to the air. This limited contact and exposure may be helpful in reducing the risk of infection.
Patients may be able to assist in decreasing the risk of post operative infection. Discontinuing smoking or losing weight may help to prevent post operative infection. Following all instructions for home care following surgery will also greatly decrease the risk of post operative infections.