Surgical site infections (SSI)

An SSI or surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the actual surgery took place.

Surgical site infections are sometimes simply superficial infections which involve the skin only. However, other surgical site infections (SSIs) are much more serious. They can involve the tissues under the skin, the organs, or also implanted material(s).

Symptoms include:

  • Redness and pain around the area where you had surgery
  • Drainage of cloudy fluid from your surgical wound
  • Fever

Surgical site infections are caused when bacteria gets in through the surgical incisions made during surgery. These infections threaten the lives of millions of patients each year across the world. There is growing evidence that they contribute towards the spread of antibiotic resistance. The results from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that In low and middle-income countries, 11% of all patients who undergo surgery are infected in the process. Data exists to also indicate that, in Africa, up to 20% of females who have a Cesarean Section, also contract a wound infection. This then compromises their health and also their ability to care for their new-born babies. Surgical site infections, however, are not just a problem for poor countries exclusively. SSIs, in the USA, contribute to patients spending more than 400,000 extra days in hospital annually. That comes at a cost of an additional US $10 billion every year.

surgical-site-infectionNo international evidence-based guidelines had previously existed before the WHO launched its global guidelines on the prevention of surgical site infections (3 November 2016) Consequently,  there are some inconsistencies in the interpretation of evidence. There are also inconsistencies in the recommendations in existing national guidelines. However, these new WHO guidelines are valid for any country. They are suitable to adapting locally also. They take account of the strength of all the available scientific evidence, the associated cost and resource implications, plus the patient values and preferences.

Core is now working to provide products and systems for the medical and healthcare communities to help end surgical site infections. Core is also developing new resources for students and healthcare professionals to help everyone to understand the causes of these infections. The Core goal is to rid infection following surgery and to take stringent measures to safeguard the medical staff’s own health when possible.

More information

Data in the UK Government’s report includes voluntary submissions and data. This information has been submitted as part of the Department of Health’s mandatory healthcare-associated infection surveillance programme.

The Report also includes information on the number of operations performed, plus the data quality, associated benchmarks, trends and the risk factors. SSIs are also recorded by their surgical category by each NHS Trust in England.

Surgical site infections (SSI) surveillance: NHS hospitals in England: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/surgical-site-infections-ssi-surveillance-nhs-hospitals-in-england

Global guidelines on the prevention of surgical site infection http://www.who.int/gpsc/ssi-prevention-guidelines/en/