A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Most patients do not develop an infection. However, infections can develop in a small number of patients who have surgery. 

Most surgical site infections can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic given to you depends on the germ causing the infection and whether you have any drug allergies.

In order to prevent surgical site infections, members of your healthcare team will:

  • Clean their hands and arms with an antiseptic just before performing your surgery.
  • Clean their hands with soap and water or hand rub before and after taking care of you.
  • Use electric clippers rather than a razor to remove the hair in the area of your surgery.
  • Wear special hair covers, masks, gowns, and gloves during the procedure.
  • If indicated, give you an IV antibiotic an hour or less before the surgery.
  • Clean the skin at the site of your surgery with a special soap that kills germs.

To help prevent a surgical site infection, you should:

At the surgery center:

  • Wash your hands as requested by the nurse upon entering the preoperative room.
  • Make sure that everyone on your healthcare team cleans their hands with soap and water or a hand rub before taking care of you.
  • Ask if you will get antibiotics before surgery.
  • Ask family and friends who accompany you to not touch the surgical wound or bandages.
  • Learn about taking care of your wound before you leave the surgery center.

After you go home:

  • Always clean your hands before and after taking care of your wound.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you have any signs of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgical site, drainage, or fever.
  • Instruct family and friends to clean their hands with soap and water or a hand rub before and after visiting you.
  • Keep pets away from your surgical site.

Remember—it is perfectly OK and we encourage you to ask the members of your healthcare team if they have cleaned their hands!