Surgical Site Infection

Donald E. Fry, MD Adjunct Professor of Surgery

 Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
Chicago, IL

October 3, 2014
Declarations of Conflicts of Interest:
  • Donald Fry serves on the Board of the Surgical Infection Foundation and is a past president of the organization. He is currently a member of 25 surgical societies and holds no offices for any of these societies at the time of publication. He speaks periodically on surgical infections for Merck and has been a consultant and speaker for Ethicon on two occasions within the last year. At the time of publication, Dr. Fry was organizing a controlled clinical trial for the IrrlMax Company on the use of an innovative application of dilute chlorhexidine in the surgical wound.


Surgical site infection continues to be a major source of morbidity, economic cost, and even deaths in surgical patients. They occur as part of a complex interaction between the number of bacteria that contaminate the surgical site, the virulence of the contaminant, the microenvironment at the surgical site, and the integrity of host defense. Different surgical sites from different types of operations are at different risks for infection. Of importance, acute and chronic medical conditions become important variables in modulating the effectiveness of the host response, and hence the likelihood that infection will occur. The actual rates of surgical site infection for most operations remain poorly defined because many procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, many infections in the inpatient population are not identified until after discharge, and the thoroughness of surveillance remains inconsistent. Multiple preventive measures, including the judicious use of preoperative antibiotics, have been demonstrated to reduce the frequency of surgical site infections. Even with the use of all of the effective preventive measures, infections still occur and require effective management to minimize the consequences of the infection.