Impact of surgical site infection on healthcare costs and patient outcomes: a systematic review in six European countries

J Hosp Infect. 2017 May;96(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2017.03.004. Epub 2017 Mar 8.


Background: Surgical site infections (SSIs) are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, SSIs constitute a financial burden and negatively impact on patient quality of life (QoL).

Aim: To assess, and evaluate the evidence for, the cost and health-related QoL (HRQoL) burden of SSIs across various surgical specialties in six European countries.

Methods: Electronic databases and conference proceedings were systematically searched to identify studies reporting the cost and HRQoL burden of SSIs. Studies published post 2005 in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and the UK were eligible for data extraction. Studies were categorized by surgical specialty, and the primary outcomes were the cost of infection, economic evaluations, and HRQoL.

Findings: Twenty-six studies met the eligibility criteria and were included for analysis. There was a paucity of evidence in the countries of interest; however, SSIs were consistently associated with elevated costs, relative to uninfected patients. Several studies reported that SSI patients required prolonged hospitalization, reoperation, readmission, and that SSIs increased mortality rates. Only one study reported QoL evidence, the results of which demonstrated that SSIs reduced HRQoL scores (EQ-5D). Hospitalization reportedly constituted a substantial cost burden, with additional costs arising from medical staff, investigation, and treatment costs.

Conclusion: Disparate reporting of SSIs makes direct cost comparisons difficult, but this review indicated that SSIs are extremely costly. Thus, rigorous procedures must be implemented to minimize SSIs. More economic and QoL studies are required to make accurate cost estimates and to understand the true burden of SSIs.

Keywords: Economic burden; Europe; Quality of life; Surgery; Surgical site infection.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / methods
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • France
  • Germany
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infections / economics*
  • Infections / epidemiology
  • Infections / mortality
  • Italy
  • Length of Stay / economics
  • Mortality
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Outcome Assessment*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Spain
  • Surgical Wound Infection / economics*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / mortality
  • Surgical Wound Infection / psychology
  • United Kingdom