Everything You Need to Know About Surgical Site Infections

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Expert Care Required for This Unique Situation

Skin acts as a natural barrier against infection. But despite abundant precautions and protocols for infection prevention, any surgical procedure that causes a break in the skin can lead to an infection. An infection of this type is called a surgical site infection (SSI) because it occurs on the part of the body where the surgery took place.

SSIs are somewhat common, occurring in 2 to 5 percent¹ of surgeries involving incisions. That’s as many as 300,000 Americans per year. Rates of infection differ according to the type of surgery, and most of those are staph infections. At Texas Infectious Disease Institute, located just outside of Dallas in Richardson, TX, we are a regional leader in treating these types of infections at our Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease.

Dr. Serge Lartchenko has the training and experience to treat even the most complicated SSIs. Many doctors and surgeons in the Dallas-Fort Worth area refer their patients to our Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease because they know we can help.

Let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions about SSIs:

What is a surgical site infection (SSI)?

A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after a surgical procedure in the part of the body where the surgery took place. SSIs can sometimes be superficial infections on the skin. But other SSIs are more serious and can involve tissues under the skin, organs or implanted material. They typically occur within 30 days of the surgery.

What causes an SSI?

Germs. The most common types of infection-causing bacteria are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Pseudomonas. These types of bacteria 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 own body that spread to the wound.

What are the different types of SSIs?

There are three main types of SSIs. Superficial incisional SSIs occur just in the area of the skin where the incision was made. Deep incisional SSIs occur beneath the incision area in muscle and the tissues surrounding the muscles. Finally, organ or space SSIs are a type of infection found in any area of the body other than skin, muscle and surrounding tissue involved in the surgery. This includes a body organ or 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 orthopedic surgery.

Are SSIs serious?

They certainly can become serious. SSIs can lead to more surgeries and other complications if not treated effectively. 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. This is why it is important to trust a doctor who specializes in treating orthopedic and surgery-related infections, including those due to spinal instrumentation.

What puts me at risk for an SSI?

Several things can increase the likelihood of contracting an SSI, including:

  • Surgery lasting longer than two hours
  • A weakened immune system
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Older age
  • Emergency surgery

What are the symptoms of an SSI?

After any surgical procedure, you should watch for symptoms and see a medical professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Redness or pain around the site of the incision
  • Cloudy fluid draining from surgical site
  • Incision site is hot to the touch
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

How are SSIs treated?

Some SSIs respond well to antibiotics, but more serious SSIs can require additional surgery to be fully eradicated. At our Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease, we provide the latest advancements in non-surgical treatments for orthopedic and surgical site infections. These include specialized antibiotic treatment infusion therapies and combination therapies at our onsite infusion center.

Can SSIs be prevented?

Although surgery always comes with risks, including the risk of developing a surgical site infection, there are several things you can do before, at the time of and after surgery to help reduce your risk of developing an SSI.

Before surgery, be sure to tell your doctor about any medical problems you may have. Additionally, if you are a smoker, you should stop, since people who smoke get more infections.
After surgery, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your surgical wound or dressing. Make sure providers and caregivers do as well. Make sure you fully understand how to care for your wound properly before you leave the hospital. And finally, if you begin to experience any signs or symptoms of an infection, call your doctor immediately.

Why Choose Texas Infectious Disease Institute?

Dr. Lartchenko has the training and experience needed to treat the most complicated infections brought on by surgery. Our mix of expert diagnosis, intravenous treatments and antibiotic combination therapy makes us a premier choice for the treatment of complicated infections. Our dedicated Center for Surgical and Orthopedic Infectious Disease offers a comfortable, convenient and confidential setting for treatment.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a surgical site infection, don’t wait. Seek help now. You’re in good hands at Texas Infectious Disease Institute. Dr. Lartchenko was recently recognized for the third year in a row as a “Best Doctor in Dallas” by D Magazine as a premier choice for infectious disease treatment. Trust your health to a proven expert. Schedule a confidential consultation with Dr. Lartchenko today.

¹Loyola University Health System. “Surgical site infections are the most common and costly of hospital infections: Guidelines for preventing surgical site infections are updated.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2017.