With the increasing volume of same-day operations and shortened hospital stays, it becomes more likely that a significant percentage of surgical site infections will occur after these patients' discharges.
To document the true incidence of postdischarge surgical site infection, surveillance was undertaken in a group of obstetric and gynecologic patients. The study consisted of two parts. (1) A questionnaire was mailed to each surgeon, inquiring about clinical evidence of infection. The infection control service continued to do surveillance of wound infection in the usual manner, and the results of the two methods were compared. (2) A questionnaire was provided to patients undergoing operation, inquiring about signs and symptoms of wound infection.
A total of 469 surgical procedures were included, with a total of 24 infections detected (5.2%). Of these, 14 infections (58.3%) were detected by the usual surveillance method. An additional 10 infections (41.7%) were detected after patient discharge by the physician questionnaire. Only two of the 24 infections were detected by the patient questionnaire.
Failure to include postdischarge surgical site surveillance results in a substantial underestimation of the true surgical site infection rate. Physician input and strong support have prompted a regular biannual postdischarge surgical site surveillance program in this patient population.