Surgical Wound Infection - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Surgical wound infection (ILO) is an infection that occurs in the surgical incision. This condition generally appears within the first 30 days after surgery.with symptoms of pain, redness, and a burning sensation in the scar.

In surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in the skin using a scalpel, causing a surgical wound. These wounds can become infected even though the surgical procedures that have been carried out are appropriate and through infection prevention measures.

Based on the location of the infection, surgical wound infections are divided into:

  • ILO shallow incision (superficial),i.e. infection that occurs only in the area of ​​​​the skin incision
  • ILO deep incision (deep), i.e. infections that occur to the tissue under the skin and muscles
  • ILO organs or cavities, namely infections that occur in organs or cavities in the operating area

Causes of Surgical Wound Infection

Surgical wound infections are generally caused by bacteria, such as bacteria Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas. Surgical wounds can be infected by these bacteria through various forms of interaction, such as:

  • The interaction between the surgical wound and germs on the skin
  • Interaction with germs spread in the air
  • Interaction with germs that are already in the body or the operated organ
  • Interaction with germs on the hands of doctors and nurses
  • Interaction with germs found in non-sterile surgical instruments

Several factors that can increase a patient's risk of developing a surgical site infection are:

  • Undergo a surgical procedure that takes more than 2 hours
  • Undergo surgery on the stomach
  • Undergo emergency surgery (CITO)
  • old age
  • Suffering from diabetes
  • Suffering from cancer
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoke

Symptoms of Surgical Wound Infection

Surgical wound infections can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Red rash on the surgical wound
  • Pain or stinging at the surgical wound
  • The surgical wound feels hot
  • Swelling of the surgical wound
  • Fever
  • Surgical wound oozing pus
  • Open surgical wound
  • The surgical wound smells bad
  • Surgical wound healing takes longer

When to go to the doctor

Generally, doctors will advise patients to have regular checkups after surgery, so that the surgical wound can be checked regularly. If you experience symptoms and complaints of surgical wound infection, immediately see a doctor. Surgical wound infections that are not treated immediately can lead to serious complications.

Diagnosis of Surgical Wound Infection

To diagnose a surgical wound infection, the doctor will ask questions about the patient's symptoms and complaints, the patient's surgical history, and the patient's medical history. Next, the doctor will perform a physical examination of the surgical wound.

In order to make the diagnosis more accurate, the doctor will also perform additional examinations in the form of taking a sample of fluid from the surgical wound for further examination in the laboratory.

Surgical Wound Infection Treatment

The goal of surgical wound infection treatment is to relieve symptoms and treat wound infection. There are several treatments that can be done to treat surgical wound infections, namely:


Medicines that can be given by doctors to treat surgical wound infections caused by bacteria are antibiotics. This medicine can treat the infection in the wound and stop it from spreading.

If the wound or area of ​​infection is small and shallow, the antibiotic used can be in the form of a cream, such as: fusidic acid. However, if the wound or area of ​​infection is large and already severe, antibiotics will be given in the form of injections or tablets. Some of the most commonly used antibiotics are:

  • Co-amoxiclav
  • Clarithromycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Metronidazole

Wounds infected with bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is more resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Therefore, the doctor will give a special antibiotic to treat it.


If necessary, the surgeon will perform another operation to clean the wound. Actions that are generally taken are:

  • Open the surgical wound by removing the stitches
  • Perform an examination of the skin and tissues to detect if there is an infection, as well as determine what type of antibiotic can be used
  • Clean the wound by removing dead tissue or infected tissue (debridement)
  • Clean the wound with a saline solution or saline solution
  • Drain pus (if any)
  • Cover the wound (if there is a hole) with sterile gauze moistened with saline

Self care

After being allowed to leave the hospital, the patient needs to carry out self-care at home by changing the bandage regularly and cleaning the wound regularly. It aims to prevent the infection from worsening and accelerate the healing of surgical wound infections.

Complications of Surgical Wound Infection

If a surgical wound infection is not treated immediately, it can spread and cause complications such as:

  • Cellulitis
  • Other skin infections, such as impetigo
  • Sepsis
  • Abscess
  • Tetanus
  • Flesh-eating bacterial infection or Necrotising fasciitis

Prevention of Surgical Wound Infection

There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of surgical site infection, namely:

  • Before surgery, take a shower with clean water and antibacterial soap.
  • Remove all jewelry before surgery.
  • Keep the wound closed and make sure the area around the wound is clean.
  • Check the condition of the surgical wound regularly to the doctor.
  • Do not smoke.