What is a Surgical Site Infection (SSI)?
A surgical site infection is an infection
that occurs after surgery in the part of the
body where the surgery took place. Most
patients who have surgery do not develop
an infection. However, infections develop in
about 1 to 3 out of every 100 patients who
Some of the common symptoms of a surgical
site infection are:
• Redness and pain around the area where
you had surgery
• Drainage of cloudy fluid from your
Can SSIs be treated?
Yes. Most surgical site infections can be
treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic given
to you depends on the bacteria (germs)
causing the infection. Sometimes patients
with SSIs also need another surgery to treat
What are some of the things that hospitals
are doing to prevent SSIs?
To prevent SSIs, doctors, nurses, and other
• Clean their hands and arms up to their
elbows with an antiseptic agent just
before the surgery.
• Clean their hands with soap and water
or an alcohol-based hand rub before and
after caring for each patient.
• May remove some of your hair
immediately before your surgery using
electric clippers if the hair is in the same
area where the procedure will occur. They
should not shave you with a razor.
• Wear special hair covers, masks, gowns,
and gloves during surgery to keep the
surgery area clean.
• Give you antibiotics before your surgery
starts. In most cases, you should get
antibiotics within 60 minutes before the
surgery starts and the antibiotics should
be stopped within 24 hours after surgery.
• Clean the skin at the site of your surgery
with a special soap that kills germs.
What can I do to help prevent SSIs?
Before your surgery:
• Tell your doctor about other medical
problems you may have. Health problems
such as allergies, diabetes, and obesity
could affect your surgery and your
• Quit smoking. Patients who smoke get
more infections. Talk to your doctor about
how you can quit before your surgery.
• Do not shave near where you will have
surgery. Shaving with a razor can irritate
your skin and make it easier to develop an
At the time of your surgery:
• Speak up if someone tries to shave you
with a razor before surgery. Ask why you
(frequently asked questions)
If you do not see your providers clean
their hands, please ask them to do so.
need to be shaved and talk with your
surgeon if you have any concerns.
• Ask if you will get antibiotics before
After your surgery:
• Make sure that your healthcare providers
clean their hands before examining you,
either with soap and water or an alcohol-
based hand rub.
• Family and friends who visit you should
not touch the surgical wound or dressings.
• Family and friends should clean their
hands with soap and water or an alcohol-
based hand rub before and after visiting
you. If you do not see them clean their
hands, ask them to clean their hands.
What do I need to do when I go home from
• Before you go home, your doctor or nurse
should explain everything you need to
know about taking care of your wound.
Make sure you understand how to care for
your wound before you leave the hospital.
• Always clean your hands before and after
caring for your wound.
• Before you go home, make sure you know
who to contact if you have questions or
problems after you get home.
• If you have any symptoms of an infection,
such as redness and pain at the surgery
site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor
If you have additional questions, please ask
your doctor or nurse.