Surgical Site Infections, Frequently Asked Questions
It is the goal of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughter’s Health System (CHKDHS) to provide the best possible care for your family. Please read this information to learn about how you can help us prevent infections.
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 have surgery.
Some of the common symptoms of a surgical site infection are:
- Redness and pain around the area where your child had surgery
- Drainage of cloudy fluid from the surgical wound
Can SSIs be treated?
Yes. Most surgical site infections can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic given to your child depends on the bacteria (germs) causing the infection. Sometimes patients with SSIs also need another surgery to treat the infection.
What is CHKDHS doing to prevent SSIs?
To prevent SSIs, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers:
- Clean their hands and arms up to their elbows with an antiseptic agent just before 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 child’s hair immediately before his/her surgery using electric clippers if the hair is in the same area where the procedure will occur. They should not shave your child with a razor.
- Wear special hair covers, masks, gowns, and gloves during surgery to keep the surgery area clean.
- Give your child antibiotics, if needed, before surgery starts. In most cases the antibiotics should be given within 60 minutes before the surgery starts and should be stopped within 24 hours after surgery.
- Clean the skin at the site of your child’s surgery with a special soap that kills germs.
What can I do to help prevent my child from getting a SSIs?
Before your child’s surgery:
- Tell your child’s doctor about other medical problems he/she may have. Health problems such as allergies, diabetes, and obesity could affect your child’s surgery and his/her treatment.
- If your adolescent child smokes, encourage him/her to quit smoking. Patients who smoke get more infections. Talk to your child’s doctor about how you can help him/her quit before surgery.
- If your child shaves, tell him/her to avoid shaving near the area of the surgery. Shaving with a razor can irritate the skin and make it easier to develop an infection.
At the time of your child’s surgery:
- Speak up if someone tries to shave your child with a razor before surgery. Ask why he/she needs to be shaved and talk to the surgeon if you have any concerns.
- Ask if your child will get antibiotics before surgery.
After your child’s surgery:
- Make sure that all healthcare providers clean their hands before examining your child, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Family and friends who visit your child 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 your child. If you do not see them clean their hands, ask them to do so.
What do I need to do before my child goes home?
- Before your child goes home, his/her doctor or nurse should explain everything you need to know about taking care of your child’s wound. Make sure you understand how to care for the wound before you leave the hospital.
- Always clean your hands before and after caring for your child’s wound.
- Before your child goes home, make sure you know who to contact if you have questions or problems after you get home.
- If your child has any symptoms of infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever, call the doctor immediately.
If you do not see your child’s healthcare providers clean their hands, please ask them to do so.
If you have additional questions, please ask your child’s doctor or nurse.
This material was adapted from information co-sponsored by: SHEA (The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America); IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America; APIC (Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) CDC (Center for Disease Control) and The Joint Commission. 2009
This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.