Self-Reported Diagnosis and Management of Surgical Site Infection Highlights Lack of Objective Measures and Treatment Guidance

Patrick T. Delaplain*, Jeffrey Santos, Philip S. Barie, Justin Dvorak, Tina S. Mele, Rondi Gelbard, Christopher A. Guidry, Sebastian D. Schubl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: There is little guidance regarding empiric therapy for superficial surgical site infections (SSIs). Management of incisions with signs of SSI lacks consensus and management is variable among individual surgeons. Methods: The Surgical Infection Society was surveyed regarding management of SSIs. Cases were provided with varying wound descriptions, initial wound class (WC), post-operative day, and presence of a prosthesis. Responses were in multiple-choice format; statistics: χ2; α = 0.05. Results: Seventy-eight members responded. For appearance scenarios, respondents believed that both mild erythema (55%) and clear drainage (64%) could be observed, whereas substantial (>3 cm) erythema or purulence should be treated with complete (22% and 50%) or partial (55% and 40%) opening of the incision. Degree of erythema did not influence administration of antibiotic agents, but purulence was more likely than clear drainage to be treated with antibiotics (38% vs. 6%; p < 0.001). There were no differences based on WC, except that clean cases were more likely than higher WC scenarios to be treated with gram-positive coverage alone (WC 1 [26%] vs. 2 [10%] vs. 3 [13%] vs. 4 [4%]; p < 0.001). Post-operative day (POD) three appeared to be an inflection point for more aggressive treatment of suspected incisional SSI, with fewer (POD 0 [86%] vs. POD day 3 [54%]; p < 0.001) reporting observation. Respondents were more likely to obtain imaging, start broad-spectrum antibiotic agents, and return to the operating room for purulence in the presence of a mesh. Conclusions: Presented with escalating possibility of SSI, respondents reported lower rates of observation, increased use of antibiotic agents, and increased surgical drainage. Many scenarios lack consensus regarding appropriate therapy. The complete elimination of SSIs is unlikely to be accomplished soon, and this study provides a framework for understanding how surgeons approach SSIs, and potential areas for further research or pragmatic guidance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-605
Number of pages8
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • antibiotics
  • hospital-acquired infections
  • surgical site infections
  • wound management


Dive into the research topics of 'Self-Reported Diagnosis and Management of Surgical Site Infection Highlights Lack of Objective Measures and Treatment Guidance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this