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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.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Having your SSI treated may be very painful and put you at risk of bleeding. You may have an allergic reaction or develop kidney problems with long-term use of strong antibiotics. A scar may form on your skin as it heals. Sometimes, even with treatment, the infection is not completely treated or may come back. If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body. This may lead to loss of a body part, function, and may even be life-threatening. Talk with your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your condition, treatment, or care.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


It is important that you have a good diet to help your body heal faster. A caregiver, called a dietitian, may work with you. If you cannot eat through your mouth, you may be fed the following ways:

  • Nasogastric tube: This is also called an NG tube. An NG tube is inserted into your nose and into the stomach. This tube is used to give you liquids and nutrients.
  • Total parenteral nutrition: This is also called TPN. This provides your body with nutrition such as protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes fat. TPN is usually given through an intravenous (IV) catheter.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.

Treatment options:

  • Cleansing: Cleansing may be done by rinsing the wound with sterile (clean) water. It may be done using high pressure with a needle or catheter and a large syringe. Germ-killing solutions may also be used to clean your wound.
  • Debridement: This is done to clean and remove objects, dirt, or dead skin and tissues from the wound area. Caregivers may cut out the damaged areas in or around the wound. Wet bandages may be placed inside the wound and left to dry. Other wet or dry dressings may also be used. Caregivers may also drain the wound to clean out pus.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This is also called HBO. HBO is used to get more oxygen into your body. The oxygen is given under pressure to help it get into your tissues and blood. You may be put into a tube-like chamber called a hyperbaric or pressure chamber. You will be able to see your caregivers and talk with them through a speaker. You may need to have this therapy more than once.
  • Negative pressure therapy: This is also called vacuum-assisted closure (VAC). A special foam dressing with an attached tube is placed inside the wound cavity and tightly covered. The tube is connected to a pump which will help suck out excess fluid and dirt from the wound. VAC may also help increase blood flow and decrease the number of bacteria in the wound.
  • Wound dressings: Dressings (bandages) are used to protect the wound from further injury and infection. They may also help provide pressure to decrease swelling. Dressings may be in the form of bandages, films, or foams. They may contain certain substances that may help promote faster healing.

Further information

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

Learn more about Surgical Site Infections (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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