Frequently Asked Questions

What are surgical site infections?

A surgical site infection (SSI) is an infection that occurs after a surgery in the area that the surgery was performed. These infections can affect the incision area or the deep tissue at the operation site.
How are SSIs caused?

SSIs are caused by bacteria entering a surgical incision or wound. This bacterium is usually found in or on the patient's own body. Some surgeries are at higher risk for infections, especially in areas that have higher levels of bacteria.
What are the symptoms of SSIs?

  • Increased soreness, pain, or tenderness at the surgical site

  • A red streak, increased redness, or puffiness near the incision

  • Greenish-yellow or bad-smelling discharge from the incision

  • Fever of 38.5°C or higher

  • A tired feeling that doesn't go away

  • Symptoms can appear at any time from hours to weeks after surgery; implants such as an artificial knee or hip can become infected a year or more after the operation.
What are the risk factors for SSIs?
The risk of acquiring a surgical site infection is higher if you:
  • Are an older adult

  • Have a weakened immune system or other serious health problem such as diabetes

  • Smoke

  • Are malnourished (don't eat enough healthy foods)

  • Are very overweight
How are SSIs treated?

  • Some infections are treated with antibiotics — the type of medication will depend on the germ causing the infection

  • An infected skin wound may be reopened and cleaned

  • If an infection occurs where an implant is placed, the implant may be removed

  • If the infection is deep within the body, a drainage procedure may be required.
What is SSI prevention?

SSI prevention refers to the proper administration of antibiotics within the appropriate time prior to surgery. This performance statistic is monitored and reported for all primary joint replacement surgeries, including total, partial or hemi arthroplasties (replacements) of the knee or hip joint.
How do we prevent SSIs?

Several best practices help to prevent SSIs:
  1. The proper administration of prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics.
    North York General monitors and reports the appropriate use of (preventative) antibiotics for all hip and knee joint replacement surgeries.

  2. Appropriate hair removal at the surgical site.

  3. Monitoring and maintenance of the patient's body temperature at 36°C throughout the surgical procedure.

    Best practices such as # 2 and # 3 are monitored, but are not part of the reporting process.
For more information, please visit: the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.

What can patients do to help reduce their chances of infection?

Ask lots of questions. Learn what steps the hospital is taking to reduce the risk of infection.

If your doctor instructs, shower or bathe with antiseptic soap the night before and day of your surgery. You may be asked to use a special antibiotic cleanser that you don't rinse off.

If you smoke, stop or at least cut down. Ask your doctor about ways to quit.
Only take antibiotics when told by a health care provider. Using antibiotics when they're not needed can create germs that are harder to kill. If prescribed, finish all your antibiotics, even if you feel better.

After your surgery, eat healthy foods.

When you return home, care for your incision as instructed by your health care provider.