Skip to Content

Surgical Site Infections


  • A surgical site infection, or SSI, is an infection in a wound you got from surgery. It is caused by germs called bacteria. SSI may develop within the first 30 days after surgery but often occurs 5 to 10 days after surgery. It may affect either closed wounds or wounds that were left open to heal. It may affect tissues on any level of your body. Infections may develop in superficial (close to the skin) or deep (muscle) tissues. In more serious cases, SSI may affect a body organ.
  • SSI often presents as a non-healing wound or wound that does not improve with treatment. Increased pain, redness, and swelling are common signs and symptoms. Wound care is a procedure to clean the wound, stop infection, and help promote healing. Depending on the severity, location, and presence of other conditions, caregivers will choose the best treatment for your SSI. Wound care may include wound cleansing, debridement (surgical cleaning), and wound covering. Medicines to fight infection and ease your symptoms may also be given. Treatments for your SSI may change depending on how the wound is responding to treatment and your general health.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine. Use all medicines given to control other health conditions as directed by your caregivers. Managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease will help your wound heal.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Wound care:

Other health problems may make it easier for you to get new infections. Regular visits to your caregiver may help you stay healthy. You may also do the following to help your wound heal:

  • Avoid smoking cigars, pipes and cigarettes. Smoking may decrease the ability of new blood vessels to form on the wound. It also causes blood vessels to constrict (tighten) which decreases blood flow and oxygen going to the wound.
  • Do not let your wounds get wet. Always keep your wounds clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash your wound with soap and water, or follow your caregiver's orders. Afterwards, put on clean, new bandages. Change your bandages every time they get wet or dirty. Ask your caregiver for more information about wound care.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy products, meat and fish. Eating healthy foods may help you heal faster. You may also need to take vitamins and minerals if you are not getting enough nutrients in your food. If you have other medical conditions, you may need to follow a certain diet. Ask your caregiver if you need to be on a special diet.

For more information:

You may contact the following for more information about surgical site infections:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:
  • American College of Surgeons
    633 N. Saint Clair St.
    Chicago , IL 606113211
    Phone: 1- 312 - 2025000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 6214111
    Web Address:


  • 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 the wound.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, surgery, or medicines.


  • The skin around your wound feels numb (has no feeling).
  • You cannot move the joint located below or near your wound.
  • You develop blisters, or your skin starts to peel or change color.
  • You have trouble breathing all of a sudden.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your pain is not gone even after taking medicine, or is getting worse very quickly.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.