Ways to Reduce Infection Post Surgery

Surgery is stressful enough, without experiencing any bumps in the road as it pertains to your recovery.  A common and often avoidable problem encountered by patients recovering from surgery is infection.  Some patients are more inclined than others to develop this sort of problem.  Because of this, there may be some simple things that can be done to reduce your chances of postoperative infection.

Prevention begins in the weeks and months prior to surgery.  Studies have demonstrated that patients with diabetes and other medical conditions are more prone to infection particularly when that condition is poorly controlled.  Blood sugar levels or medications should be appropriately monitored and optimized to minimize this risk.  Additionally, nutritional status places important role in wound healing.  The body requires protein to recover and heal.  Malnutrition is an often unrecognized and common problem that may make you more susceptible to experiencing an infection.  Consultation with your orthopedic surgeon and primary care physician may help identify those patients at risk and what can be done to correct the underlying metabolic abnormality prior to surgery.

Other patient related factors such as current medications, history of radiation exposure or treatment, and vascular status have also been linked to delayed wound healing and increased risk for infection.  Discussing these factors with your surgeon will help identify high risk patients so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

Following surgery, you may be placed on a short course of prophylactic antibiotics depending on the procedure, extent of surgery, and other patient related factors that may place you at high risk.  Appropriate wound care is also paramount in avoiding postoperative infection.  You will need to discuss what steps should be taken in the days and weeks following surgery to ensure appropriate wound healing.  This will include detailed instructions regarding dressing changes, cleansing the operative site, and when you can return to normal activities. You may be asked to avoid swimming pools, or other strenuous activity that may compromise the healing process for a short period of time.

While there is no way to absolutely prevent all infections from occurring postoperatively, there are many steps that can be taken to significantly reduce your risk.  It is always advisable to discuss any questions you have with your orthopedic surgeon and to fully disclose any prior history of infection, current health conditions, and medications that you may currently be taking so that any correctable problems can be dealt with and optimized preoperatively.

Written by Dr. Judd Cummings

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