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Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment | Health Facilities

Surgical Site Infections

Surgical Site Infections

An infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place is called a surgical site infection (SSI). Sometimes SSI's are superficial and only involve the skin, but SSI's can also be more serious and involve tissues beneath the skin, organs, and implanted materials. SSI's are the second most common healthcare-acquired infection and they make up about 17% of reported patient infections.


Surgical site infections are classified into three categories:

  • Superficial Incisional (SIP): infection involves only the top layers of skin.
  • Deep Incisional (DIP): infection involves the deeper soft tissues.
  • Organ Space (OS): infection involves any part of the body that is opened or manipulated during the procedure, not including the skin incision, fascia, or muscle layers.

Some procedures are performed as either inpatient or outpatient. An outpatient procedure is one where the patient’s admission and discharge occur on the same day. An inpatient procedure is one where the patient’s admission and discharge are on separate days.

In 2005, it was estimated that surgical site infections contributed to $928,663 extra hospital treatment days and $1.6 billion in additional healthcare costs. This means that individual patients with infections related to surgery have to stay in the hospital approximately ten days longer and pay $20,842 more than patients who do not have an infection.

The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) requires that facilities report all surgical site infections on all procedures that are reported to the network database. The surgical procedures performed in Colorado that are required to be reported are:

  • Cardiac procedures (Heart bypass or Coronary Artery Bypass Graft)
  • Hip replacements
  • Knee replacements
  • Hernia repair procedures
  • Abdominal and Vaginal hysterectomies
  • Breast Procedures
  • Colon Procedures