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Any surgical procedure is done in a sterile environment in order to prevent contamination of the site. But since there is a break in the skin due to the incision, microorganisms have an easier access to the open wound that may cause infection. Surgical site infection (SSI) is an infection that occurs on the surface of the surgical incision.

The hospital staff follows strict guidelines in order to prevent infections, especially during surgical procedures. All healthcare providers are required to wash their hands before any procedure. In the case of surgeries, they perform surgical handwashing procedures that make use of antiseptics instead of the usual soap in the wards. They also use gowns, surgical caps and gloves in order to prevent microorganisms from their body from entering the sterile field. Antibiotics are also administered to the patient before the procedure commences and an antiseptic is poured on the site before making an incision.

Some of the common symptoms associated with an infection are redness and pain around the incision, presence of drainage from the incision and presence of fever. Pain and redness are normal post-operatively, and should subside as time passes. But pain and redness that gets worse instead of better are to be reported to the physician or the nurse. The presence of drainage in the surgical site may be normal or abnormal, depending on the colour of the drainage. A serous drainage, or a watery or yellowish discharge, is a normal occurrence during the first part of the healing process. Serosanguinous drainage, or a watery or yellowish discharge tinged with blood is also normal. Abnormal wound discharges include sanguinous drainage, the major component of which is blood. Purulent discharge, or a pus-filled discharge, is a clear sign of wound infection. The pus can be white, yellow, green, pink or brown, and is usually accompanied by fowl odours. As soon as the patient experiences these symptoms, he/she should consult his physician right away to be given prompt treatment.

Most surgical infections can be prevented and treated by antibiotics. Depending on the type of microorganisms infecting the incision, an antibiotic will be prescribed by the physician. There are instances, though, when the infection is so severe that it may require a separate surgery to remove the infected part.

Surgical infections can be prevented by having an active participation during before and after the surgery. While the physician is obtaining your health history, supply as much information about your health status such as allergies, medication, past and present medical problems. Also, do not shave the area where that will be incised since it may irritate the skin and make more susceptible to infections. Maintain good hygiene. Take a bath and empty your bladder and bowels before going to the operating room. Make sure that you are taking your pre-operative medications.

After the surgery, practice proper hand washing procedures before any wound cleaning. Ask your visitors to clean their hands before and after their visit and not to touch the dressing and the wound. Before going home, learn how to clean your wound properly from the physician or your nurse.