Timing May Not Be Everything – But it’s a Big Deal – in Preventing Surgical Site Infections

May 21st, 2018

When it comes to preventing surgical site infections and halting the spread of disease, washing your hands can go a long way.


But there are a lot of other things the team at JPS Health Network does in its never-ending quest to prevent post-surgical infections. A comprehensive plan is needed to give patients the best chance possible to avoid potentially preventable complications.

“Here at JPS, we’re giving evidence-based, high quality care,” said Eleena Bower, Director of Infection Control at the Health Network. “It’s our mission to stay up-to-date on the best practices for preventing surgical site infections.”

National Institutes of Health statistics indicate that surgical site infections are one of the most common types of nosocomial infections, accounting for 21.8% of the total number seen in the United States annually. They increase rates of morbidity, mortality, re-admissions, and prolonged hospital stays, driving up healthcare costs.

So, what can be done to stop SSI?

Investigations of how surgical wound infections begin have revealed it’s not just what you do to prevent them. Also important is the timing of when it’s done. Antibiotics are a top weapon in the arsenal of infection fighters. But researchers have found that they’re most effective when they’re given to a patient before their operation starts instead of afterward when an infection is noticed.

Timing is also key when it comes to keeping infection sites clean. It’s not enough to keep a wound clean after surgery. Patients need to do their part and keep it clean well before their operation starts to give themselves the best chance to avoid an infection later.

“Many times, surgical site infections are caused by bacteria that normally is on the surface of our skin,” Bower said. “When a surgical incision is made our skin can no longer work as a protective barrier. Removing bacteria from the skin prevents the migration of harmful bacteria to the inside of the body, and that’s how the infection begins.”

To battle the possibility that bacteria on top of the skin will make it into places it’s not supposed to be during their operation, patients are asked to bathe thoroughly and clean their surgery site with CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate 4%) solution three times before they go for surgery and two days after surgery for a total of 5 CHG baths. 

According to the CDC, surgical site infections are dangerous to the patient and expensive to treat. They also are, in many cases, unnecessary. Statistics indicate more than half of the cases each year in the United States are preventable using the latest, evidenced-based strategies. Taking a few simple steps can not only save thousands of dollars per patient and shorten their hospital stay. It could save their life.

Other best practices for preventing surgical site infections, recommended by the Center for Disease Control incorporated at JPS include:

  • Keeping patients oxygenated with a face mask for 4 hours after surgery.
  • Patients should be kept warm or normothermic before during and after surgery. Normothermia means the patient must have a core temperature range of 36°C (96.8°F) to 38°C (100.4°F).
  • Managing patient blood glucose to be below 200 mg/dL.



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