Background: Patients with surgical site infections (SSIs) require a longer time in the hospital, more nursing care, additional dressings, and, possibly, readmission to the hospital and further surgery. The combined direct and indirect costs of treating SSIs may be extremely high.
Methods: Review of current practice and guidelines.
Results: The direct costs of SSI include a longer hospital stay, readmission, outpatient and emergency visits, further surgery, and prolonged antibiotic treatment. Other direct costs arise from radiologic procedures, laboratory tests, home health visits and other ancillary services, drugs, and professional fees. Indirect costs, which are difficult to quantify, include lost productivity of the patient and family and a temporary or permanent decline in functional or mental capacity. The cost of SSIs increases with the depth of the infection. That is, the costs associated with superficial incisional SSIs are relatively low, but increase with deep SSI, and especially when organ or space infection is present. The estimated costs of managing SSI differ widely, from less than dollar 400 per case for superficial SSI to more than dollar 30,000 per case for serious organ or space infections.
Conclusions: The need to treat SSIs places a severe financial strain on health care resources. It is possible that treating high-risk surgical patients medically will prove to be more cost-effective than repeated operations.