How to Prevent Surgical Infections

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How to Prevent Surgical Infections

When it comes to managing surgical infections, prevention is the answer. The risk of developing a surgical infection is small, but should one occur, the consequences can be life-threatening.

To ensure that you do all you can to aid in preventing surgical infection, here are some recommendations you can employ at the time of your surgery.

Before the Surgery

ANTIBIOTIC USE

Check with your doctor to find our whether or not antibiotics are recommended for your type of procedure. For some minor surgeries, antibiotics are not necessary, while others, such as hip replacements, would require them. Remember, if antibiotics are necessary, they should be administered within 1 hour of the beginning of your surgery.

OPERATING ROOM PROCEDURES

It is well within your rights to ask that the number of people in the OR be limited to only those required for your procedure. Additional personnel can add additional risk. Discuss this with your surgeon ahead of time.

You should also inquire about having your operating room temperature maintained at a reasonable level or make other warming preparations. Though staff may tell you that a cold OR decreases your risk for infection (this is a common myth perpetuated at hospitals but is NOT based in fact) it is often kept cooler for the comfort of hospital personnel. In fact, reports the New England Journal of Medicine, infection risk is actually reduced when the patient is kept adequately warmed.

PREP

Make sure that, if hair removal is required for your surgery, it is done right before surgery, not the evening before. Also, make sure that clippers are used, rather than a razor. Be sure to bathe with antiseptic soap the night before.

DIABETICS

If you’re diabetic, you could be at a higher risk for post-surgical infections. Elevated blood sugar levels have been linked to increased risk. Be sure to discuss your blood sugar concerns with your physician and anesthesiologist prior to surgery, and ask how they plan to keep your blood glucose levels normalized during and immediately following the procedure.

Post-Care

PROPER WOUND CARE

Be sure to go over proper wound/incision care with your physician – both how to care for your wound and the bandage properly to reduce risk of infection. Ask these questions:

How to care for the bandage
When can you remove or change the dressing
How best to care for the wound to aid in healing and reduce infection risk
How and when to clean the wound
Remember, if you have problems with your bandage or wound care or suspect a possible infection, contact your physician immediately.

SIGNS OF INFECTION

Fever
Chills
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