About Surgical Site Infections (SSI)

Three out of every one hundred people who has surgery will develop a surgical site infection, and the incident rate may be as high as 30% depending on the surgical procedure. In a survey of 6,745 patients in Canadian acute-care hospitals across nine provinces, surgical site infections accounted for 21% of nosocomial infections.1

Patients who develop an infection are:

  • Five times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital
  • Likely to need an average of eight additional days in the hospital
  • 60% more likely to need intensive care
  • Twice as likely to die

Cardiovascular patients in particular face an increased risk. In a study of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, the mortality rate rose to 22% for patients who developed a deep-chest surgical site infection, compared to 0.6% for patients who didn’t develop an infection.  

Surgical infections not only affect individual patients, but the hospital as a whole. According to Dr. Ross Baker, a University of Toronto professor in health, policy and management, a “reasonable” reduction in the number of surgical site infections in a medium-sized hospital could free up as many as 20 to 30 beds on an ongoing basis. Providing care to surgical site infections often requires nurses to work longer hours and perform with limited resources. Also, because treatment for a surgical site infection is about $4,000 per patient, there is a tremendous financial impact on Canadian healthcare systems. In Quebec, for example, it was estimated that preventable surgical site infections cost the healthcare system over $10 million a year. By spending less than 1% of their operating room budget, hospitals can reduce their rate of surgical site infections more than 50% annually—both improving hospital conditions and saving lives.3