A surgical-site infection is a specific type of hospital-acquired infection that occurs after an operation. Incising the skin and tissues makes them more vulnerable to bacteria, and despite advancements in the operating room, SSIs are still fairly common.
According to Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, SSIs increase health care costs as well as mortality and morbidity rates post-surgery. Fortunately, however, there are things that both doctors and patients can do to prevent surgical-site infections from occurring.
What doctors can do
Health care and government agencies in Canada and around the world establish standards and guidelines to prevent infections during and after surgery. Several of these guidelines relate to cleanliness.
Among the most common and uniform guidance are those that address cleanliness. For instance, doctors must clean the incision site beforehand with an antimicrobial soap and scrub their hands and arms with an antiseptic agent up to the elbows before performing surgery.
Doctors should also wear gloves, gowns, masks and hair covers during surgery to avoid contaminating the wound. Not only that, but they often need to use electric clippers to remove any hair from the surgical site.
Physicians should also perform infection risk assessments, monitor patients and minimise contamination by restricting access to spaces like operating rooms.
What patients can do
Patients can also do things to reduce the risk of infection during or after an operation. Patients can talk to their doctors about existing health conditions and concerns; asking questions about the procedure and discussing fears or worries can ensure everyone is on the same page.
It is also crucial for patients to follow instructions on preparing themselves for an operation and performing post-surgical wound care.
Can infections still occur?
Unfortunately, the fact is that infections can still occur despite these efforts and in cases of negligent healthcare practices. However, with swift action and proper care, healthcare workers can treat the infection, hopefully preventing any severe or long-term consequences for the patient.
Infection prevention and control have come a long way, and when people adhere to guidelines and take reasonable care, surgical patients can be safer and healthier.