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Having Surgery? What You Should Know Before You Go

Patients should expect safe healthcare everywhere care is given, including doctor's offices, surgery centers, physical/occupational clinics, and other outpatient care practices.

CDC recently released a guide and checklist specifically to prevent infections in patients receiving outpatient care.

Healthcare providers: View tools and guidance to be sure you are meeting or exceeding basic standards of care.

Having any type of surgery can be both necessary and stressful. It can raise questions including: What is the recovery process? How long will I be out of work? What do I do after leaving the hospital or surgery center?

Another important question patients should consider is: How do I avoid getting a surgical site infection (SSI)?

An SSI is an infection patients can get during or after surgery. SSIs happen on any part of the body where surgery takes place. Surgical site infections can sometimes be infections involving the skin only. Other surgical site infections are more serious and can involve tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material.

These infections can make recovery from surgery more difficult because they can cause additional illness, stress, and cost. Therefore, it is important that appropriate prevention efforts are taken.

To prevent surgical site infections, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers will take several measures to ensure that the surgical site is as clean as possible, including:

  • Cleaning their hands and arms up to the elbows with an antiseptic agent just before the surgery
  • Wearing hair covers, masks, gowns, and gloves during surgery to keep the surgery area clean
  • Photo: A healthcare professional iwth a patient.When indicated, giving you antibiotics before surgery starts
  • Cleaning the skin at the surgery site with a special soap that kills germs

How can you and your loved ones safeguard against surgical site infections?

  • Prior to your surgery, discuss other health problems, such as diabetes, with your doctor. These issues could affect your surgery and your treatment.
  • If you smoke, quit. Patients who smoke get more infections.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for cleaning your skin before your surgery. For example, if your doctor recommends using a special soap before surgery, make sure you do so.
  • Ask if you need to get antibiotics prior to surgery.

After surgery, be sure to follow the recommendations below to protect against surgical site infection.

  • Photo: A healthcare professional washing her hands.Ask your healthcare provider to clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before they examine you or check your wound.
  • Ensure family and friends clean their hands before and after visiting you.
  • Do not allow visitors to touch the surgical wound or dressings.
  • Make sure you understand how to care for your wound before you leave the medical facility.
  • Always clean your hands before and after caring for your wound.
  • If you have any symptoms of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor immediately.

More Information

More information on surgical site infection

Information to assist clinicians in delivering safe care

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: July 13, 2011
  • Page last updated: July 13, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs