Controlling Infections After Surgery

Now that the newest addition to our medical campus is open, including updated surgical rooms, we thought it would be an excellent time to discuss surgeries and the care after an operation. You may think surgeries are a small part of rural hospital activities, but no surgery is ever minor in its relation to how it can impact the ongoing quality of life for a patient.

With improvements in surgical technology, like our robotic-assisted knee replacement system, we are able to give more patients access to quality surgical care. In the fiscal year 2018, FCMC performed over 900 surgeries. All those surgeries mean we also commit to a focus on infection control and keeping our infection rates after surgery to less than 1%. That is a remarkable accomplishment, given that we track and take accountability for infection rates one year after surgery. One of the biggest questions we get is, “what causes infections?” There are many reasons, but two common causes are related to patient activities after an operation or patient history. Two knee infections that occurred in the past help illustrate the risks and need for care after any operation.   

  • One patient had several other surgeries during the same time period of their knee operation and had a history of prior infections. Evidence shows that any time a patient has multiple surgeries in a year, the risk of infection rises.  All risks and benefits are discussed between the patient and the surgeon prior to surgery.
  • Another infection occurred due to excessive exposure of soil shortly after surgery.  Patients are educated to keep their incisions clean, dry, and intact. When a patient is anxious to get back to their daily activities they can often discount instructions in order to get back to life, whether it’s work on the farm or in the office. The importance of postoperative care and proper follow up is key to avoiding infections.

 Our low infection rates are one of several reasons why the hospital maintains a 5-star rating in our patient satisfaction survey. While the risk of infection is difficult to determine with such variations of patient health states before and after surgery, even after a patient returns home, we continue to be involved in their care. To lower a patient’s risk of infection, we recommend the following: 

  • Watch activities that you participate in
  • Think about the people that visit you after surgery
  • Nosin protocols to decrease the colonization of bacteria. The typical protocol is to swab three times one hour before surgery. We also send patients home with enough for five days after surgery.

 A final part is the treatment if an infection occurs. Nationally, there has been a rise of superbugs that are multidrug-resistant to antibiotics. We encourage you to be Antibiotics Aware to reduce resistance. If you develop an infection after surgery, this helps our doctors use the appropriate antibiotics when necessary, and with better outcomes. Regardless of where you had your surgery, call us directly if you suspect an infection. We are always here for you through every stage of your healthcare life.

Want to learn more about infection rates? Check out the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website, where you can see all Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) rates. Currently, it is “estimated 5-15% of all hospitalized patients experience an HAI.”