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Serge Lartchenko, MD is Dallas’ Best Doctor for Infectious Disease*
Imagine you’ve had surgery. Maybe a back, neck or spine procedure. And now, in addition to the recovery from the surgery itself, you’re dealing with an infection. Specifically, a surgical site infection (SSI).
This unfortunate situation happens more often than you might think. But did you know that at Texas Infectious Disease Institute, we are fully equipped and well trained to help individuals dealing with infections stemming from surgeries? In fact, so much of our practice is focused on the treatment of SSIs that we have a dedicated onsite infusion center for patients dealing with these types of issues.
When treating SSIs, our goal is always the prevention of significant injury or permanent issues that can be caused by surgical site infections as well as the eradication of the infection itself.
What Causes SSIs?
In a word, germs.
The most common types of infection-causing bacteria are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Pseudomonas. Germs can infect a surgical wound through physical contact, such as from the touch of a contaminated caregiver or surgical instrument, through germs in the air and even through germs already on or in your body that spread into the wound.
Skin is a natural barrier against infection, but even with the many precautions and protocols surgeons take to prevent infection, any procedure that causes a break in the skin can lead to an infection. We call these infections surgical site infections (SSIs) because they occur on the part of the body where the surgery took place. The chances of developing an SSI post-surgery are small, but if you are someone who experiences an SSI, it’s important to get proper treatment.
Types of SSIs
The CDC classifies SSIs into three types:
- Superficial incisional SSI. This type of infection occurs just in the area of the skin where the incision was made.
- Deep incisional SSI. A deep incisional infection occurs beneath the incision area in muscle and tissue surrounding the muscles.
- Organ or space SSI. This type of infection can be in any area of the body other than skin, muscle and surrounding tissue that was involved in the surgery. This includes a body organ or even the space between organs. This type of SSI is often associated with nervous and muscle tissue adjacent to the hardware (screws, plates, cages) used in prosthetic surgery.
SSIs can, of course, occur after any type of surgery, but they seem to happen more commonly after orthopedic surgeries, including joint replacement surgeries as well as back, neck and spine surgeries.
Because people are living longer and staying active longer than ever before, more and more individuals are undergoing joint replacement surgeries. Within the next decade, the number of knee and hip replacements is estimated to increase from 600,000 to about four million. And with about 5% of joint replacements resulting in infection, the number of orthopedic infections is expected to increase dramatically as well.
Orthopedic infections are among the most difficult to treat and often require the attention of an infectious disease specialist. Dr. Latchenko has the training and experience needed to treat the most complicated cases. Our combination of expert diagnosis, intravenous treatments and antibiotic combination therapy make TIDI a premier choice for treatment of difficult infections.
Who is Most at Risk for Developing an SSI?
As we mentioned, anyone who has surgery can develop a surgical site infection. But there are conditions and situations that do increase the risk. They include:
- A pre-existing medical condition (like diabetes)
- A pre-existing infection
- A weak immune system
- Poor nutrition
- Advanced age
- Smoking (or other sources of nicotine)
- A surgery lasting more than two hours
How Will I Know if I Have an SSI?
A surgical site infection may cause redness, delayed healing, fever, pain, tenderness, warmth around the incision or even swelling. In some cases, SSIs will cause pus to drain out of the wound site and cause the incision to reopen.
How Do We Treat SSIs?
At Texas Infectious Disease Institute, we are honored to have become a trusted resource for the effective treatment of SSIs. Many doctors and surgeons refer their patients to us because they know we can help.
Most SSIs can be treated with antibiotics, including intravenous treatments and antibiotic combination therapy. Our onsite outpatient infusion center makes it easy for patients to receive the care and medication they need in one convenient, comfortable location. Depending on the degree of infection, it may take days or even weeks to clear up completely.
Why Are SSIs So Important?
A Surgical Site Infection can make you very sick and left untreated, will not resolve on its own. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, without proper treatment, SSIs remain a significant cause of morbidity (level of health) and mortality (risk of death) after surgery. They are the leading cause of readmissions to the hospital following surgery, and approximately 3% of patients who contract an SSI will die as a consequence.
Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease
If you or someone you love is suffering from a surgical site infection (aka infection after surgery), don’t wait for it to “get better on its own.” Seek a specialist that can help alleviate symptoms and effectively treat the infection from the inside out. You’re in good hands at Texas Infectious Disease Institute’s Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease.