How to Prevent Surgical Infections

Updated on February 27, 2019

Patients who have undergone surgery are at an increased risk of developing an infection at a hospital. While surgical site infections can cause minor problems during recovery, they can also be severe and potentially fatal.

Every hospital, therefore, must prevent them from occurring and treat them successfully if an infection should develop. To ensure a facility never drops its standards, find out how to prevent surgical infections.

Understand the Risk Factors

1.7 million infections are reportedly contracted in US hospitals every year, with 99,000 people consequently passing away.

While anyone can develop an infection following a surgical procedure, there are some patients who will have a higher risk than others.

For example, there is an increased danger if a patient is:

  • In their senior years
  • Taking certain medications, such as steroids
  • A smoker
  • Living with a weak immune system or a health condition such as diabetes
  • Malnourished
  • Overweight

A patient’s risk might also be increased if a surgery lasted for more than two hours and/or they underwent abdominal surgery.

Identify the Symptoms of an Infection

Every medical professional must have a firm understanding of the symptoms of an infection, which can include:

  • Increased skin redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Cloudy or yellow-greenish discharge from the incision wound
  • A foul odor
  • A fever
  • Nausea

Symptoms can also strike hours or weeks after surgery. For example, an implant can cause an infection at any point following an operation.

Preventative Steps

There are, however, steps hospitals can take to prevent the development of an infection, such as:

  • Removing patient hair prior to an operation
  • Ensuring all operating room staff scrub both their arms and hands with an antiseptic soap
  • Carefully cleaning a patient’s skin where the incision will be made
  • Administering antibiotics 60 minutes before an incision and stopping the course within 24 hours following surgery
  • Closely watching a patient’s blood sugar levels and temperature to ensure it remains within the normal range

Wound Care

Once the surgery is complete, the hospital staff must focus their attention on wound care. It is common to cover a closed wound with a sterile dressing for a day or more. Open wounds should, however, be packed with sterile gauze before they are covered with a sterile dressing.

It is also possible to create unique wound dressings with the help of Raleigh Adhesive Coatings Ltd. They are dedicated to developing silicone gel wound dressings, which will allow the optimal healing of patient wounds.

How to Treat Surgical Site Infections

There are a variety of ways to treat a surgical site infection. In some cases, an infection can be treated with antibiotics, but the type administered will be determined by the germ suspected of causing an infection. 

It might also be necessary to reopen and clean the infected wound. A gauze may need to be inserted into a deep wound, which must be changed often until it heals from the inside out.

If, however, an infection developed where an implant has been fitted, it might need to be removed. However, it is possible a deeper infection will require a patient to undergo an additional operation.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.