Having to get any type of surgery, no matter how simple the procedure may seem, can be scary. The Covid-19 pandemic, with its new health risks and protocols to follow, makes it even more stressful for patients.
While the pandemic initially decreased the number of outpatient surgeries being performed, they are back to pre-pandemic levels, which had been on the rise even before then: In 1995, 13.4 million surgeries took place at hospital-owned centers and by 2018, there were 19.2 million.
It’s common to get an infection after having a procedure at a surgical center or hospital. That’s one of the reasons it’s important for patients to learn as much as possible to keep themselves safe before having a procedure done. With that in mind, HealthyWomen reached out to Dr. Dele Ogunseitan, a population health and disease prevention and public health professor at the University of California, to ask what questions people should ask their healthcare providers (HCPs) before having outpatient surgery.
“To some extent, every medical procedure has a personal dimension because we are all
individuals with unique characteristics,” Ogunseitan said in an email. “However, there are some fundamental practices that support the expertise of professionals, so that quality of care can be controlled. So, the most important thing is to pay close attention to the recommendations of healthcare providers in terms of how best to prepare for outpatient surgery.”
While each surgery is different, there are specific steps you can take to lower your risk of getting an infection, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. These include:
Surgical site infections (SSIs) — infections that develop at incision sites — are the most common infections that people develop after surgery. The risk, however, is relatively low: According to a 2014 study, only 3% of patients developed an SSI within 14 days and almost 5% developed one within 30 days of having outpatient surgery.
There are also other infections to be aware of, such as healthcare-associated infections, which are infections patients get in a healthcare setting and that may or may not be antibiotic-resistant.
Hospitals are aware of the risks of antibiotic-resistant healthcare-associated infections, Ogunseitan said. Healthcare providers should also be following the CDC’s best practices for handwashing, among other hygiene guidelines, which should reduce your chance of getting sick after your surgery.
You’re less likely to contract an infection during outpatient surgery than inpatient surgery, but the longer you stay in any healthcare facility, the greater risk you have of contracting an infection.
Be proactive. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone who enters your room, whether in a healthcare facility or while recovering back at home, to wash their hands. Also, be aware of the CDC’s best practices for patient safety:
An antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) infection is one that cannot be easily treated by drugs. HCPs are the only ones who can determine whether a post-surgery infection is indeed an AMR-related infection. Your HCP then should follow CDC guidelines for treating AMR infections.
One of the first signs of any infection is a fever. That can be followed by symptoms including:
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your HCP right away or go to the hospital.
Speak with your HCP about any concerns you have before leaving the healthcare facility. If you get home and feel unwell, call them.
Above all, if you feel yourself quickly getting worse, call 911 or ask a loved one to take you to the hospital.
“Some infections can progress very rapidly, and it is better to be cautious than to be sorry,” Ogunseitan said.
Before surgery ask your HCP:
In addition, follow all instructions provided by your HCP, including any special instructions about how to care for your surgical incision. Depending on the procedure, these could include:
Ogunseitan emphasized that it’s your responsibility to follow these instructions, but if you’re unclear about what to do or think you’ve made a mistake, talk to your HCP to get help as soon as possible.
This resource was created with support from Pfizer Inc.