Background: Surgical site infection (SSI) continues to be a common and costly complication after surgery. The current commonly used definitions of SSI were devised more than two decades ago and do not take in to account more modern technology that could be used to make diagnosis more consistent and precise. Patient-generated health data (PGHD), including digital imaging, may be able to fulfill this objective. Methods: The published literature was examined to determine the current state of development in terms of using digital imaging as an aide to diagnose SSI. This information was used to devise possible methodology that could be used to integrate digital images to more objectively define SSI, as well as using these data for both surveillance activities and clinical management. Results: Digital imaging is a highly promising means to help define and diagnose SSI, particularly in remote settings. Multiple groups continue to actively study these emerging technologies, however, present methods remain based generally on subjective rather than objective observations. Although current images may be useful on a case-by-case basis, similar to physical examination information, integrating imaging in the definition of SSI to allow more automated diagnosis in the future will require complex image analysis combined with other available quantified data. Conclusions: Digital imaging technology, once adequately evolved, should become a cornerstone of the criteria for both the clinical and surveillance definitions of SSI.
Keywords: patient-generated health data; surgical site infection.