With any surgery, infection is a slight possibility, and knowing the first steps of treatment are crucial in staying healthy.

Surgical patients average a one to three percent chance of developing an infection at their incision site. Infections typically occur if there is a problem with healing, such as the edges separating or as a result of friction from the dressing.

Care for surgical wound infections will depend on the infection itself, which can be superficial, deep or involve an organ. It is important healthcare professionals determine high-risk patients and provide thorough wound care instructions.

Causes of Surgical Wound Infections

Surgical wounds can be classified into four different categories:

  • Clean wounds, with risk of infection less than two percent
  • Clean surgical wounds involving internal organs, with risk of less than ten percent
  • Contaminated wounds from spillage of organs, with risk between thirteen and twenty percent
  • Dirty wounds where an infection was already present, with a risk of forty percent

Other risk factors may include: diabetes, smoking, obesity, compromised immune system, malnutrition or a long operating time.

Signs of Infection

  • Sudden pain, or pain that is not getting better over time
  • Redness, warmth or swelling
  • Pus, white pimples or blisters
  • Bad odor
  • Fever
  • Sweats or chills

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor. In order to determine if an infection is present, the doctor will examine the wound and may take a tissue or blood sample.


Care for surgical wound infections will usually require antibiotic therapy. Over-the-counter or prescription pain killers may also be recommended. Depending on the infection, the doctor may need to remove the sutures and drain the wound. A debridement procedure may be necessary to remove dead tissue preventing healing.

Home Care

For healing to be successful, proper home care is essential.

  • To alleviate pain and swelling during the first few days, elevate the wound above the heart
  • Do not touch or scratch the wound
  • Avoid showering for two to three days, and do not go swimming until wound is healed
  • Avoid scented soaps, alcohol, iodine and peroxide
  • Wash your hands frequently and ask family members to wash frequently
  • Change dressing as directed by your doctor

Changing Your Wound’s Dressing

Prior to changing your dressing, make sure you have all the necessary supplies. Advanced Tissue is a great resource for wound care products, especially with the unit dose packages. These packages contain everything you need for a dressing change

Instructions for changing your dressing:

  • Wash hands and remove jewelry prior to handling wound
  • Use medical gloves to remove old dressing
  • After disposing of old dressing, remove gloves and wash hands again
  • Carefully clean the wound area with gauze and pat dry
  • Look for signs of infection, particularly colored drainage, redness spreading away from the incision or swollen lymph nodes
  • Apply any prescribed ointments
  • Apply new bandage
  • Wash your hands

You will most likely need to change your dressing every day starting the day after your surgery, but every case is different and it’s important to consult your physician for specific instructions.

The right supplies are crucial when handling surgical wounds and infections. From simple gauze to complex collagen dressings, Advanced Tissue can help with your surgical wound needs.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.