Preventing Infections After Surgery
We’ve all heard of infections happening after a surgical procedure. Do you know why these infections happen? Contrary to popular belief, it does not always (though in some cases it can) have to do with the outside environment. There are a number of things that can be done before and after brain and spine surgery to help prevent a surgical site infection (SSI).
First, let’s talk about what an SSI is: an infection that occurs after surgery in the area of the body where the surgery was performed, usually within the first 30 days. Infections can develop in about 1 to 3 out of every 100 patients treated by surgery.
- One of the main risks for infections after surgery is smoking. If you smoke, stop now! Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting before your surgery.
- Be sure to tell your doctor about any other medical issues you may have, especially involving diabetes, allergies, and obesity. This will help the doctor take the proper precautions before an incision is made. In all cases, a prophylactic antibiotic is given before surgery, which can help with preventing the development of an infection.
- Your diet in the days before also matters. Sugar reduces your immunity. Try to avoid foods with a lot of added sugar, to keep your immunity as strong as possible.
- Dr. Fayaz spends a great deal of time washing before a surgery to avoid introducing bacteria to the wound -- to the best of his ability. He also asks patients to take a shower before surgery using an antibacterial soap that he prescribes. He uses an antiseptic solution on the patient’s skin in the area of the incision before surgery begins. As with all surgical procedures, the surgeon takes great caution in his environment which includes scrubbing up and down for the surgery, prepping or draping the site of the surgery as well as keeping the environment and other instruments sterile. Given that Dr. Fayaz uses microsurgical technique, with an emphasis on minimally invasive procedures, tissue damage is minimized and tissue blood flow is less disrupted.
- Family and friends should wash their hands thoroughly before and after visiting you and should not touch the surgical wound or dressings at all.
- Before you go home from the hospital, make sure you understand how to properly care for your wound by speaking with your doctor or nurse and asking any questions you may have. Also, ask for contact information in case you have questions later on or need some assistance in the days following.
- And be sure to keep your hands and your body as clean as possible once you get home.
- Dr. Fayaz recommends daily dressing changes, until staples or sutures are removed. He recommends that an incision not get wet for up to 5 days after surgery, and if the person will be taking a shower, that incision will be covered and the dressing will be changed after the shower.
What to Do if You Get an Infection
- Watch your wound. It’s normal for a small amount of redness or inflammation to appear around the area of surgery. But if you notice the redness spreading into splotches that go beyond the surgical site, this could be a sign of infection and will need to be treated immediately.
- Be cautious of raised, bumpy skin at the wound site. If the site is swollen, raised, or warm in temperature, or if you notice fever, fatigue or chills contact your doctor.
- Some fluid drainage is normal at the incision site. Talk to your doctor about what it should look like. if you notice yellow, green or cloudy fluid coming from the affected area, this could mean you have an infection and should contact your doctor right away.
Most surgical site infections are treatable with antibiotics. However, in some cases, another surgery is needed to drain the puss and treat the infection.
Dr. Fayaz is committed to spending time with each patient and their families, answering questions thoroughly and in a way that is easy to understand. Talk with him before your surgery to thoroughly go over the protocols that need to be in place so that you understand what’s expected of you.