Surgical site infections after cesarean delivery: epidemiology, prevention and treatment

Matern Health Neonatol Perinatol. 2017 Jul 5;3:12. doi: 10.1186/s40748-017-0051-3. eCollection 2017.


Cesarean delivery (CD) is one of the most common procedures performed in the United States, accounting for 32% of all deliveries. Postpartum surgical site infection (SSI), wound infection and endometritis is a major cause of prolonged hospital stay and poses a burden to the health care system. SSIs complicate a significant number of patients who undergo CD - 2-7% will experience sound infections and 2-16% will develop endometritis. Many risk factors for SSI have been described. These include maternal factors (such as tobacco use; limited prenatal care; obesity; corticosteroid use; nulliparity; twin gestations; and previous CD), intrapartum and operative factors (such as chorioamnionitis; premature rupture of membranes; prolonged rupture of membranes; prolonged labor, particularly prolonged second stage; large incision length; subcutaneous tissue thickness > 3 cm; subcutaneous hematoma; lack of antibiotic prophylaxis; emergency delivery; and excessive blood loss), and obstetrical care on the teaching service of an academic institution. Effective interventions to decrease surgical site infection include prophylactic antibiotic use (preoperative first generation cephalosporin and intravenous azithromycin), chlorhexidine skin preparation instead of iodine, hair removal using clippers instead of razors, vaginal cleansing by povidone-iodine, placental removal by traction of the umbilical cord instead of by manual removal, suture closure of subcutaneous tissue if the wound thickness is >2 cm, and skin closure with sutures instead of with staples. Implementation of surgical bundles in non-obstetric patients has been promising., Creating a similar patient care bundle comprised evidence-based elements in patients who undergo CD may decrease the incidence of this major complication. Each hospital has the opportunity to create its own CD surgical bundle to decrease surgical site infection.

Keywords: Cesarean delivery; Chlorhexidine skin preparation; Surgical bundle; Surgical site infection; Vaginal cleansing.

Publication types

  • Review