Unfortunately, infections are a known complication that can come along with surgery. They do happen and most are easily treated. These facts don’t satisfy us at Mia Aesthetics, however. Our goal is to prevent the onset of infection entirely. We track our infection rates on a continuous basis to ensure that our infection rate is lower than the national average and we continuously evaluate our internal processes to guarantee the highest sterilization standards.
You can count on us to do our part when it comes to preventing infections, but we need your help. Once you leave our care after surgery, the task of helping to prevent infection falls on you. There are several steps you can take to help keep your recovery infection-free. It’s also important that you recognize the signs of infection so if one does occur, you can get treatment quickly.
Signs of Infection After Surgery
Even when you take all of the right steps to prevent an infection, factors beyond your control may cause one to develop. Microorganisms like bacteria may infiltrate the wound, multiply, and damage your skin’s tissues, which can cause illness and delay the healing process. If you notice any of the following signs, call your doctor as soon as possible for infected wound treatment:
Feelings of Malaise
Malaise is a feeling of tiredness and a complete lack of energy. It’s normal to feel tired after you have surgery, especially during the first day or two while the anesthesia works its way through your system. Malaise is a bit different and will leave you feeling utterly exhausted, and it doesn’t get better. When recovering from surgery, you should feel a little bit better every day. If you don’t, or if you start to feel better but then take a step backward, you likely have an infection.
Running a Fever
Running a fever can cause headaches, decrease your appetite, and leave you dehydrated. Running a low-grade fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or less is normal following surgery. However, if your temperature reaches 101 degrees or more, it may indicate an infection. If this happens, consult your surgeon or physician immediately.
It’s not unusual to have some fluid buildup at the surgical site. This is why surgeons often place drainage tubes in your surgical wounds. But the fluid that comes out of your tubes should be clear or perhaps a bit yellow. If the discharge from your tubes is greenish, cloudy, or pussy, call your surgeon right away as this is a sign of infection. This applies even if you don’t have drainage tubes. Any fluid that seeps out of your incision site should be clear and free of pus.
While some pain is common after surgery, it should gradually subside as your body heals. Pain medication can help, but you should be able to stop taking your pain pills in a few days if you follow your doctor’s wound care directions and avoid strenuous activities. If you continue to experience pain or suddenly have increased pain, it may be a sign of infection, and you should consult with your surgeon or physician.
Redness and Swelling
Some redness is normal at the wound site, but it should diminish over time. The same is true of swelling. If the redness fails to go away or gets worse, you may have an infection, Again, the same is true of swelling. Think the swelling might be getting worse? Draw an outline around the swollen area with a marker. If the swelling moves past your outline, you’ll know the swelling is increasing and it’s time to call your doctor.
Your Incision Feels Hot
When an infection develops in a wound or incision, the body sends infection-fighting blood cells to the location. This may make your wound or incision feel warm to the touch. If the hot temperature continues, see your doctor.
Things Smell Bad
A little bit of seepage from your incision site is normal, especially if you have drains, but what comes out of you shouldn’t have a noticeable odor. Plastic surgery shouldn’t stink. If your drains or incision sites give off a foul odor, you likely have an infection and require treatment.
Anything Seems Off
You don’t need a specific sign of infection to contact your surgeon. If anything feels a little off or disconcerting, reach out to us for help. We would rather you call over something that turns out to be nothing than to see an infection or complication arise that doesn’t get the attention it needs.
Steps to Prevent an Infection After Surgery
Infections do happen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to prevent them. In fact, many patients find it quite reassuring that there are steps they can take to help themselves prevent post-surgical problems.
Use an Antibacterial Soap Before Surgery
Before coming to the clinic for your surgery, your doctor will insist that you shower with an antibacterial soap containing chlorhexidine. Dial soap is a great, low-cost example of this. Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic that is used for skin disinfection before surgery and to sterilize surgical instruments. The skin is the largest barrier on our bodies that prevents us from getting into contact with harmful bacteria and substances that can lead to infections. By making sure to disinfect the skin ahead of surgery, you can decrease the likelihood of an infection occurring once the skin is opened during surgery.
If you’re a smoker who is preparing for plastic surgery, you’re probably tired of everyone telling you that you should quit. But they’re telling you for good reason. Cigarettes can slow and impede your surgical recovery and, according to the CDC, smokers get surgical site infections more often than nonsmokers.
Step Away From the Razor
Patents sometimes shave the intended surgical site before their surgery to help their surgeon. Unfortunately, this is a bad idea. Razors cause tiny microabrasions on the skin that can let bacteria into the body. If your surgeon feels the need, please let him shave you before your surgery using an electric razor. One of the best ways you can help prevent infection is by not shaving.
Change Your Bandages
When we can, we cover your surgical incisions with bandages to help keep them clean. These will become soiled as blood and other fluids drain from the wound. Your doctor will give you strict instructions on when and how to change these bandages, and it’s important that you follow them. Failure to follow these instructions will create an ideal environment for bacteria to form, increasing the likelihood of an infection.
Keep Incisions Clean and Dry
During a Brazilian butt lift (BBL) specifically, wounds are often left open to allow fluid drainage. While this helps create the best results possible, open wounds are more prone to infection than closed wounds. Because of this, it is important you take extra care to keep any open wounds clean and dry during recovery.
Institute a Strict Hand Washing Policy
As you recover, make sure you wash your hands before touching, cleaning, or changing the bandage on your surgical wound. Make sure anyone who comes to visit or help you after surgery does the same. Make them wash their hands upon entering your home and don’t allow them to touch your wounds — unless, of course, they are there to help you change your dressings or clean your wound. In that case, they should wash their hands and wear surgical gloves when touching your wound.
Avoid Scratching and Rubbing
Sometimes surgical wounds start to itch as they heal, but don’t scratch them. Scratching can pull away healthy scabs and leave the wound open to bacteria again. You could also have bacteria under your fingernails that you don’t want to introduce to the wound. It can be hard to do, but it’s important that you resist the urge to scratch that itch.
This advice also applies when you shower. When your surgeon gives you the all-clear to get your incision wet and shower as usual, remember to pat your wounds dry gently with your bath towel. Do not rub as this can disrupt stitches, staples, and other items used to close your incision.
Use Antibiotics With Care
This applies all the time to everyone, not just to those who have recently had surgery. When people take antibiotics they don’t need are contributing to a global problem. As antibiotic usage increases, germs and bacteria are mutating into resistant strains that antibiotics can’t cure. This increases the risk of infection for everyone, including those who have just had surgery. Take antibiotics only when and how instructed by a physician.