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Surgical Site Infections


A surgical site infection (SSI)

is often caused by bacteria. It may develop 10 days to several weeks after surgery. Without treatment, the infection may spread to deeper tissues or to organs close to the surgical site.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling, and pain near your incision
  • Red streaks coming from your incision
  • Blood, fluid, or pus draining from your incision
  • A foul odor coming from the incision

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel short of breath.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You are confused.
  • Blood soaks through your bandages.
  • Your wound comes apart or feels like it is ripping.
  • You have severe pain.
  • You see red streaks coming from the infected area.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have more pain, redness, or swelling near your wound.
  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You have new drainage or a bad odor coming from the wound.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a surgical site infection

may include any of the following:

  • Medicines will be given to treat the infection and decrease pain or swelling.
  • Wound care may be done to clean your wound and help it heal. A wound vacuum may also be placed over your wound to help it heal.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) may be used to get more oxygen to your tissues to help them heal. The pressurized oxygen is given as you sit in a pressure chamber.
  • Surgery may be needed to clean the wound or remove infected or dead tissue.

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. Clean your wound as directed with soap and water or wound cleaner. 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. Examples include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. 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.
  • Manage other health conditions. Follow your healthcare provider's directions to manage health conditions that can cause slow wound healing. Examples are high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause 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 in 1 to 2 days:

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.

Learn more about Surgical Site Infections (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.