In April 2019 this guideline was updated.
Infections that occur in the wound created by an invasive surgical procedure are generally referred to as surgical site infections (SSIs). SSIs are one of the most important causes of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). A prevalence survey undertaken in 2006 suggested that approximately 8% of patients in hospital in the UK have an HCAI. SSIs accounted for 14% of these infections and nearly 5% of patients who had undergone a surgical procedure were found to have developed an SSI. However, prevalence studies tend to underestimate SSI because many of these infections occur after the patient has been discharged from hospital.
SSIs are associated with considerable morbidity and it has been reported that over one-third of postoperative deaths are related, at least in part, to SSI. However, it is important to recognise that SSIs can range from a relatively trivial wound discharge with no other complications to a life-threatening condition. Other clinical outcomes of SSIs include poor scars that are cosmetically unacceptable, such as those that are spreading, hypertrophic or keloid, persistent pain and itching, restriction of movement, particularly when over joints, and a significant impact on emotional wellbeing.
SSI can double the length of time a patient stays in hospital and thereby increase the costs of health care. Additional costs attributable to SSI of between £814 and £6626 have been reported depending on the type of surgery and the severity of the infection. The main additional costs are related to re-operation, extra nursing care and interventions, and drug treatment costs. The indirect costs, due to loss of productivity, patient dissatisfaction and litigation, and reduced quality of life, have been studied less extensively.
Copyright © 2008, National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health.