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healthcare-associated infections (hai) program 

Surgical Site Infection (SSI) 

What is an SSI?

A surgical site infection (SSI) is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Many SSIs are superficial infections involving the skin only. Other surgical site infections are more serious and involve tissues under the skin (“deep”), organs (“organ space”), or implanted material (such as following hip or knee replacement surgery), and usually result in continued or rehospitalization.

If you have had surgery, how would you know if you have an SSI?

If you see signs of infection around your surgical incision, such as discharge, redness, swelling or pain around your surgical wound or if you have a fever within 30 days, you may have an SSI. If you received a surgical implant, you may have an SSI anytime within a year after your surgery. If you suspect you have an SSI, you should contact your medical provider. SSIs are treated with antibiotics and may require further surgery.

What are hospitals doing to prevent SSIs?

Hospitals can participate in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP). Currently California hospitals are required to follow, and report on, the surgical antimicrobial prophylaxis portions of the SCIP measures. See the Mandatory Reporting of Surgical Site Infection Prevention Measures. 

What SSI information is reported to CDPH? Where can I find that information?

Since April 1, 2011, hospitals have been required to report all surgeries in certain surgical procedure categories and any subsequent infections to CDPH via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). Initially this was 2 categories; for June 1, 2011, forward it was increased to 29 surgical procedure categories. This information is released annually and can be found on the Annual HAI Report page and results for 11 categories are on the Interactive Map page.

Team up with your medical providers to prevent SSIs before surgery

  • Quit smoking. Patients who smoke get more infections. Talk to your medical providers and ask where to go to for support.
  • Inform your medical providers of any other medical problems you may have such as allergies and diabetes, which could affect your surgery and your treatment.
  • Do not shave near where you will have surgery and, if hair removal is needed for your surgery, ask that it not be done with a razor as razors make it easier to develop an infection.

Team up with your medical providers to prevent SSIs after surgery

  • Request that everyone who enters your hospital room clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Make sure that only medical staff touches your wound area, after cleaning their hands.
  • Confirm you understand how to care for your wound, including hand hygiene, before you leave the hospital and follow these instructions carefully.
  • If you have any symptoms of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor immediately.


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