Surgical Site Infections: What You Need to Know About SSIs

A surgical site infection (SSI) occurs when pathogens multiply at the site of a surgical incision, which then develops into an infection. SSIs are fairly common, occurring in 2 to 5 percent of all surgeries involving incisions, as many as 500,000 SSIs happen in the United States each year. Rates of infection differ according to the type of surgery, though the most common type of SSI are staph infections. SSIs have become the leading cause of death from hospital acquired infection (HAI), and 77% of people who die in the hospital from infections after surgery die as a direct result of the HAI.

What are the three types of surgical site infection?

A surgical site infection (SSI) typically occurs within 30 days of surgery. The three types of SSIs are classified according to how serious or how deep the infection is. In severe cases, SSIs can cause complications, including sepsis, an infection in the blood that can result in organ failure. The CDC describes 3 types of surgical site infections as:

  • Superficial incisional SSI: This infection is localized to the area of the skin where the incision was made.
  • Deep incisional SSI: This infection occurs beneath the incision area in muscle and the tissues surrounding the muscles.
  • Organ or space SSI: This type of infection can be in any area of the body other than skin, muscle, and surrounding tissue that was involved in the surgery. This includes bodily organs or spaces between organs.

What is a staph infection?

A staph infection is an infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria. The most common type of infection causing staph is staphylococcus aureus, but there are many types of staph. Skin infections are the most common infections caused by staph, but staph can be present in infections in many other parts of the body ranging from incision sites, the heart and the brain.

When Does an SSI Become Sepsis?

When an infection occurs, the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the infection. If the body’s response to these chemicals falls out of balance an SSI then becomes sepsis. These chemical changes are triggered by the body’s response to an infection and can damage multiple organ systems becoming potentially life-threatening if not treated properly or in a timely manner.

How can a physician protect a patient?

In 2017, more than 119,000 people suffered from bloodstream infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus in the United States, and nearly 20,000 of those patients died as a direct result of the infection. The impact of a staph infection on a postoperative patient can be disastrous. To protect patients from injury due to infection, the CDC has established clear guidelines to inform healthcare professionals on the standard of care regarding infected patients.

CDC Contact Precautions

When treating patients who have contracted an SSI there are clearly outlined contact precautions healthcare workers are required to follow in order to protect patients who are infected from spreading the infection to those around them.

Healthcare workers must:

  • Ensure patients are placed in a single patient space if available.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and gown.
  • Refrain from transporting the patient outside of the room unless medically necessary. When medically necessary to move the patient, the infected areas of a patient’s body must be covered or contained.
  • Use disposable or dedicated equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs. If equipment must be shared between multiple patients, clean and disinfect the equipment before use on another patient.
  • Clean and disinfect the rooms of patients on contact precautions.

Injury from Infection and Medical Malpractice

If a physician treating a patient fails to adhere to the CDC guidelines when it comes to contact precautions, or failed to diagnose, treat or care for an infected patient properly, they may be held liable for malpractice. Our expert attorneys can help you understand the details of your situation and determine if you or your loved one’s injury was in fact caused by medical malpractice.

Free Case Evaluation

Contact us if you would like an evaluation of your potential medical malpractice claim.

Get Started