New SSI guidance emphasizes patients' role in infection prevention

The American College of Surgeons and the Surgical Infection Society have issued new guidelines to prevent, detect and manage surgical site infections that focus in part on the role patients themselves plays in preventing infections.

Expert panels from both organizations, as well as outside experts, reviewed available research and clinical practice experience and came to a consensus for best practices to prevent and treat SSIs before, during and after surgery.

"An important message coming out of these guidelines is that patients have a major role in their own outcomes," said Therese Duane, MD, vice-chair of quality and safety of the department of surgery and medical director of acute care surgical research at Texas Health Care in Fort Worth. "That message cannot be underscored enough. Smoking cessation, blood glucose control for diabetic patients and weight loss are some of the things patients can do to prevent SSIs."

For instance, one of the new recommendations set target blood glucose levels for all patients, not just those with diabetes, at 110-150 mg/dL because excessively low blood sugar levels increase the risk of complications.

Another recommendation encourages surgeons to talk to patients about stopping smoking four to six weeks prior to their surgery, as smokers have the highest risk of SSIs.

Clinicians should also educate patients about what wound care is necessary after discharge, according to the new recommendations.

"These days, you can do all the right things preoperatively and in the hospital, but if clinicians do not give patients sufficient guidance about wound care and follow up once they leave the hospital, patients can set themselves up for infections down the line," Dr. Duane said.

See the full guidance here.

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