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Preventing Surgical Infections

As a patient, you play a vital role in preventing surgical infections. 

Here are some important ways you can help prevent surgical infections:

  • Stop smoking.  Smoking may increase your chance of developing an infection following surgery and may slow the healing process.  Learn more
  • Always tell your doctor about chronic medical conditions. Some chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, may increase your risk of infections.
  • Ask your doctor about monitoring your glucose (sugar) levels during and after surgery. Find out what you can do to keep your blood sugar levels in control before, during and after surgery. The stress of surgery can make glucose levels fluctuate. Controlled blood glucose levels help you to resist infection better.  
  • Consider losing weight. If you are overweight, try to lose some of those extra pounds before your surgery is scheduled. Patients who are overweight are more likely to develop complications after surgery.
  • Eat healthier. Make sure your diet includes healthy food items that are rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins. To learn more about eating healthy, please visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/
  • Ask about any pre-surgery home skin preparation. Your doctor may give you special instructions for cleaning the surgical site before your surgery. For some operations, a special product, such as chlorhexidine or CHG soap helps reduce the risk of infection. Do not shave the surgical site. Shaving has been shown to cause skin irritation that increases the risk of infection.
  • Ohio Valley staff will keep you warm during surgery. Operating rooms are often kept cold, but for many types of surgery, patients who are kept warm resist infection better.
  • Clean your hands. Hand washing, using either soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer, remains your best defense against infections. Remind visitors to wash their hands. If you don’t see an Ohio Valley staff member clean their hands, ask them to do so before touching you.
  • Make sure that your family and friends clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub before and after visiting you.  They should not touch your surgical wound or your dressings.
  • Wound Care.  Before you are discharged from the hospital, make sure you understand how to care for your wound at home.  Your doctor or nurse should explain everything you need to know about your wound care.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions.
  • Contact your surgeon right away if you note any of the following:
    • Increased redness, heat, or swelling around the incision.
    • More, or foul smelling drainage from incision.
    • Increased pain.
    • Persistent fever over 100° F, or chills.

Learn more