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A to Z: Postoperative Infection

A postoperative infection is any kind of infection that occurs following a surgical procedure.

More to Know

In modern medicine, strict precautions are taken by hospitals to minimize the risk of postoperative infection. These include giving antibiotics before surgery, keeping the operating tools sterile (free of bacteria and other microorganisms), and disinfecting the surgical site.

Infections can occur at the surgical incision itself or be more systemic (affecting the whole body). If a surgical site is infected, the incision may become increasingly red and painful, be swollen and hard, or feel hot to the touch. Foul-smelling drainage or pus might be present.

Signs and symptoms of systemic postoperative infection include general ill feeling, lack of energy, fever, and chills. Common postoperative infections include infections of the blood, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections.

People who are older, obese, or have diabetes are at higher risk for infections.

Keep in Mind

Some postoperative infections can be very serious, resulting in organ failure or even death. Caught early, however, most infections are successfully treated with intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics under the close supervision of a doctor.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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