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What causes surgical site infections?

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2019 | Malpractice

One of the major risks involved with surgery is infection. Since surgery exposes areas of the body while the operation is proceeding, doctors are supposed to take precautions to make sure that infections do not develop at the site where the skin is opened up. If a Pennsylvania resident develops a surgical site infection (SSI), pain and swelling can result, and if the infection is severe enough, the patient could die.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, doctors are largely successful at preventing SSIs, with patients only experiencing a 1%-3% chance of developing a surgical site infection. Usually, if a SSI does develop, it will manifest within the first thirty days following surgery. If a doctor suspects a patient may be at risk of an SSI, the patient should know about it and receive the appropriate treatment or observation.

As the John Hopkins website explains, a patient may be at increased risk of a surgical site infection if the patient suffers from a number of pre-existing health problems, including diabetes and cancer, or if the patient simply has a weak immune system. Infection risk can also increase if a person smokes, is elderly, or is overweight. As part of informed consent, a doctor should discuss possible risks with a patient if the patient’s health makes surgery infection more likely.

It is also possible to contract a surgical site infection from a contaminated object. Surgeons should use sterilized surgical instruments to avoid infecting a patient during surgery. If a contaminated instrument contacts a surgical wound, it can introduce germs into the body, infecting the skin or even an internal organ. A caregiver who is similarly contaminated can spread infection by contacting a surgical wound.

Surgical infections can be debilitating, painful and even deadly, so it the responsibility of your health care providers to alert you to infection risks and provide the proper care if you are at risk of an infection. You may need to consult with legal counsel if you suspect negligence was the cause of a SSI. Keep in mind that this article is only supplying information and not actionable legal advice.