7 updated guidelines for preventing surgical site infections

A surgeon from Loyola Medicine has improved the 2016 guidelines for preventing surgical site infections (SSI) for the 300,000 patients in the United States affected each year.

SSIs are the most common and expensive hospital-acquired infections. With 2 to 5 percent of all surgical patients becoming infected and having to stay an average of 9.7 days longer in the hospital, the annual cost ranges from $3.5 to $10 billion a year. This study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, presents new guidelines for the prevention, detection and management of SSI’s.

The undated guidelines for SSI prevention include:

  • Smoking: Patients who smoke have a high risk of developing SSIs, to reduce this risk physicians must counsel patients on the risk and inform patients to abstain from smoking four to six weeks before surgery.
  • Blood sugar: Regardless of diabetic status, patients should maintain control a short-term blood glucose levels before, during and after surgery.
  • Hair removal: Patient areas should be shaven only if the hair interferes with surgery. Small cuts made by razors can weaken the skin's ability to block of microorganisms.
  • Topical and local antibiotics: Patients should use topical and local antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing an SSI.
  • Antibiotic sutures: Evidence has appeared that encourages the use of antibiotic sutures in decreasing the rates of SSIs.
  • Surgical gloves: The doubling up of surgical gloves is not recommended for the risk of tearing through the gloves and affecting the surgical area.
  • Showering: There is no evidence that showering for up to 48 hours before surgery increases the risk of SSIs.

"Guidelines serve as a starting point for the delivery of evidence-based care, but they are only useful if they are implemented successfully," said Kristen A. Ban, MD, a resident in the department of surgery of Loyola University Medical Center. "Hospitals must engage individuals at all levels, from front-line providers to leadership."