Preparing for a Safe, Successful Surgery

Facing surgery can be a frightening, overwhelming experience. Thousands of surgeries are performed every day and many result in the patient contracting a surgical site infection (SSI). According to the CDC, SSIs are the most common healthcare-associated infection (HAI), accounting for 31 percent of all HAIs among hospitalized patients. However there are things you can do prior to a procedure that can go a long way toward easing your mind and avoiding post-surgery complications.

Do Your Research. Learn about the procedure you will be having, including any short- or long-term side effects. Find out what the professionals recommend for the recovery process. Make sure you understand what your medical insurance covers and what your out-of-pocket responsibility will be.

Select the Right Team. Choose an experienced surgeon that specializes in the procedure you need. Do your homework on potential candidates, including learning their qualifications, specialties and amount of similar procedures performed. Pick a surgical team that you communicate well with, respects you and makes you feel at ease. Websites such as Yelp and HealthGrades can provide patient feedback on a surgeon’s performance.

Ask Questions. Since there are often several ways to perform a procedure, ask your doctor to explain the surgery. Discuss any risks, benefits and/or alternatives to the preferred method. Sometimes physicians will provide a reference patient who can tell you about their experience with the same procedure.

Choose the Hospital or Surgery Center. Check out the facility where you will have your procedure. Hospital cleanliness will play a major role in your chances of avoiding an SSI as infections develop in about one to three out of every 100 patients who undergo a procedure, according to the CDC. While antibiotics can be used for treatment, sometimes another surgery is required to treat the infection. Hospital infection rates are available at

Contact the facility and ask about how they clean the operating rooms (ORs) and recovery areas – you want to go to the cleanest and most disinfected surgery center in your area. Just because an OR looks clean does not mean that dangerous microscopic superbugs aren’t lurking on surfaces in the room. Some hospitals use a Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot, for example, that pulses xenon ultraviolet (UV) light to quickly destroy deadly germs and bacteria that can cause infections. Trinity Medical Center in Alabama reported a 100 percent decrease in joint (knee and hip) infections after it began using the robot to disinfect its ORs. Another hospital, Lowell General Hospital in Massachusetts, recently reported a 46 percent decrease in SSIs after utilizing a Xenex disinfection robot.

Select Your Surgery Time. Requesting a day early in the week, but not on Monday, and a time early in the day can decrease your odds of being exposed to germs and bacteria. ORs are deep cleaned each night, with quick cleans between each surgery. Since there are few surgeries on weekends, there may not be a cleaning crew available on Sunday night. Additionally, according to a UK study, the odds of death within 30 days after surgery were significantly higher the later in the week a surgery takes place.

Take Care of Home Responsibilities. Prior to surgery, get your home in order by cleaning, paying bills and running errands. Arrange for transportation to and from the hospital if anesthesia will be used.

Many factors influence the risk of getting an SSI, but patients have some control. To learn more about hospital acquired infections and how they can be prevented, visit


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