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Surgical Site Infections


A surgical site infection (SSI) is caused by bacteria and often develops within 10 days after surgery. The infection may be shallow or deep and can affect your organs.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You cannot move the joint near your wound.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have severe pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The inside of your wound is dark red or bright red.
  • You have more swelling, redness, or pain in your wound.
  • You have new drainage or a bad odor coming from your wound.
  • You develop blisters, or your skin starts to peel or change color.
  • The skin around your wound feels numb.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines can help fight the infection and decrease pain or swelling.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

Keep your wound clean and dry. You may need to cover your wound when you bathe so it does not get wet. When you are allowed to clean your wound, carefully wash it with soap and water, or as directed. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.

Help your wound heal:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you heal faster. You may also need to take vitamins and minerals. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and slow wound healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.