The effect of surveillance on surgical wound infection rates

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The clean wound infection rate is the most valuable reflection of surgical care in any hospital. Wound infection rates are seen as indicators of quality in terms of negative outcome measures. A nurse was appointed by Hairmyres and Stonehouse Hospitals NHS Trust for the purpose of surveillance of the clean surgical wound infection rate. The
surveillance is based on a previous study in the USA showing that feedback of infection rates to surgeons can lead to a reduction in these rates. The specifications for surveillance were that all clean surgery would be followed up for 30 days post-operatively and that wounds with implants, ie vascular grafts, would be followed up for 1 year postoperatively to produce infection rates for the surgeons, wards, theatres and the infection control team. Data collection commenced in October 1995 and so far 1851 clean surgical cases have been followed up for 30 days post-operatively. All patients were monitored until discharge, then at 30 days post-operatively, and the wound scored for signs of infection. Day cases were seen within week 1 and at day 30. General practitioner and district nurse liaison enabled detection of problems at other times. The patients were given a telephone number they could use to report problems after surgery. The results show that this type of surveillance is an effective way of collecting accurate data on wound infection rates. It has enabled the early identification of problem areas in practice. The audit has also been used to facilitate the adoption of evidence-based practice, through recommendations for clean surgery, to reduce the extrinsic risk factors for wound infection. As a result of the surveillance, there has been a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in the clean wound infection rate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-60
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Tissue Viability
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1999


  • surgical wound infection
  • surveillance
  • surgical care


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