A Patient’s Guide to Reduce the Risk of Surgical Site Infections

University of Florida – Department of Neurosurgery

Patient safety is a priority at Shands Healthcare. Our goal is to ensure all medical care is delivered in the safest environment possible, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. As a patient, you can play a vital role in patient safety by becoming an active, involved and informed member of your healthcare team. Together we can create a safer environment and reduce risk for surgical site infections. Here are some ways you can help.

Before Surgery

  • Shower and wash your hair with an antiseptic soap such as CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). Do not apply powder, lotions or creams after showering.
  • Do not wear makeup or nail polish; caregivers need to see skin to check your blood circulation.
  • Do not shave the surgical area with a razor prior to surgery. Speak up if someone tries to shave that area with a razor befor surgery.
  • Do not smoke or use nicotine (if time permits, consider a smoking cessation program if you are a smoker).
  • If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before and after your surgery about ways to control your blood sugar.
  • Discuss with your doctor any medications you are taking.
  • Tell your doctor if you have any infections on your skin or at the other sites.
  • Ask your doctor if you will receive an antibiotic prior to surgery.

After Surgery

  • Wash hands thoroughly after bathroom use or handling soiled materials.
  • Do not be afraid to remind doctors and nurses to clean their hands either by washing or using the alcohol gel before working with you.
  • Be sure to notify health care providers of any fever, weight loss, pain, redness, warmth, swelling, or oozing at the surgical site.
  • Keep skin around all IV catheters and surgical dressings clean and dry. Notify your nurse if dressings become loose or wet, or catheter or drainage tube becomes loose or comes apart.
  • Inform friends and relatives not to visit if they feel ill or have been exposed to an infectious disease (such as flu or chicken pox).
  • Family and friends should clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub before and after visiting you.
  • Do not remove or handle dressings.
  • If you are discharged with an IV catheter or a wound with a dressing, ask your doctor or nurse for information on how to safely care for wounds and catheters at home.