Infection after plastic surgery

Infection after plastic surgery

23rd May 2017

Post-operative infections are among the most common possible complications of plastic surgery. These infections can cause pain, make the wound healing process difficult, and cause prolonged hospitalization time and additional costs for the patient. They can also lead to severe problems such as septicemia and even death.

Infections after plastic surgery

The danger of infection after surgery is influenced by the risk factors the patient is subjected to. The skin is a natural barrier against infections that the pathogen agents from the environment could cause. A plastic surgery requires one or several incisions to be performed on the cutaneous tissue. This raises the risk of infection. Patients undergoing any type of surgical intervention have up to a 3% risk of developing an infection.

Usually, the infection can occur during the first 30 days following the surgical intervention. There are three main types of post-surgical infection:

– The superficial infection of the incision site occurs only where the incision was performed;

– The profound infection of the incision site occurs in between the incision in the muscular tissue and the muscular fascia (the tissue that surrounds the muscles);

The organic infection. It can occur in any other region of the body aside from the skin, muscles, and muscle fascia. It can develop in the organ or between two organs.

Causes of infection

Post-operative infections are caused by different microorganisms such as staphylococci, streptococci, or bacteria. These can infect the operative wound through different forms of contact, such as from touching a medical instrument that was contaminated, introducing the pathogen agent on an aerial way into the wound, to the migration of a microorganism that was already in the body towards the lesion.

Risk factors

The degree of risk of post-operative infection depends on the patient’s type of operative wound. The general classification is as follows:

– Clean operative wounds. There are no swelling portions and don’t involve the operation on an internal organ (the infection risk is lower than 2% in this case).

– Clean-contaminated operative wounds. There is no proof of an infection at the time of surgery, but the procedure requires an operation on an internal organ (the infection risk is lower than 10% in this case).

Contaminated operative wounds. There is a sign of infection at the time of surgery (the infection risk is of approximately 40% in this case).

The main risk factors for developing a post-operative infection include:

– Diabetes;

– Obesity;

– Old age;

– Contamination of the operative wound;

– Surgical interventions that last more than two hours;

– Smoking;

– A weak immune system;

– Surgical interventions on the abdomen;

An unclean and unprepared medical facility

Symptoms of post-surgical infection

Any post-operative infection can cause redness in the affected area, along with delayed wound healing, high fever, pain, sensitivity to the touch, and swelling. Other symptoms include:

– A superficial infection of the operative wound can cause pus at the incision area.

– A deep infection of the operative wound can also lead to pus causing the wound to open. In some cases, your surgeon will reopen the surgical wound to remove the pus that might have accumulated in the muscular tissue or the surrounding tissue.

– An organic infection can lead to pus elimination when a puncture is performed in the operated area. In a different scenario, a purulent secretion can form (called an abscess). The abscess can be observed by the plastic surgeon when the wound is opened or when radiography is done.


Treatment requires the administration of antibiotics. In some cases, additional interventions might be required to treat the infections. For example, if the infection occurs from a breast or buttock implant and is resistant to antibiotics, the plastic surgeon will need to remove the implant and clean the area.


Not all plastic surgeons prescribe antibiotics after plastic surgery, and even when the surgeon recommends them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient will take them. Some people consider antibiotics as optional, even though they can prevent an infection from occurring. Some would ask “why not prescribe the antibiotics after the infection occurs?” and the question is understandable.

When an infection occurs, it comes associated with other symptoms such as high fever, wound dehiscence, and pain, among others. Antibiotics try to prevent these from happening. A good case scenario is no occurrence of infection at all, despite taking antibiotics. However in other cases, terrible complications occur when the patient neglects the intake of antibiotics. Is putting your own life in jeopardy a risk worth taking?


A responsible plastic surgeon will prescribe antibiotics after plastic surgery. The role of antibiotics is to prevent post-operative infections that can lead to ulterior, more severe complications. Even if antibiotics are prescribed, the risk of infection is not completely eliminated. When and if this happens, it is important to get in touch with your plastic surgeon as soon as possible.

The most commonly encountered signs of post-operative infection are: high fever, redness on the incision site, sensitivity, and swelling. Pus can also be present in the case of an infection.

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