Understanding Medical Problems

How Do General Surgeons Prevent Infections?

The risk of infection is one that comes with any surgery. Whenever a surgeon makes an incision in your body and then closes up that incision, there is some chance that the incision will become infected with bacteria. However, while some risk will always be present, surgeons go to great lengths to minimize that risk. This should give you some comfort as you prepare for your own surgery. Here are some of the crucial ways that general surgeons reduce the risk of infection.

Scrubbing Up

If you've ever watched a medical show on TV, you've probably seen surgeons do this. They use powerful antibacterial soaps, which often contain iodine, to scrub their hands and arms prior to starting surgery. Even though surgeons also wear gloves during surgery, these extra precautions help prevent the introduction of bacteria to the surgical site.

Masks and PPE

Surgeons also dress in extensive PPE, or personal protective equipment, when performing surgery. They'll wear a surgical mask to avoid spreading respiratory droplets and the pathogens they can contain. They'll also gown up in surgical aprons to avoid introducing any pathogens that may be on their clothing. And of course, they wear gloves.

Iodine Swab

Before a surgeon makes an incision, they will use an iodine solution to clean the skin at the incision site. They'll use lots of iodine to ensure the area is fully saturated. Iodine is a very effective antiseptic that should kill pathogens on the skin so they don't get carried inside the body during surgery.

Suturing Techniques That Allow for Drainage

After surgery, there will often be some drainage from the surgical site. If this fluid is not allowed to drain, it could make infection more likely. Surgeons use specialized suturing techniques that allow the incision to drain as it heals. Sometimes drains will be inserted in the incision to capture this fluid. 


Often, after surgery, patients will be given doses of antibiotics. They may be given one dose of IV antibiotics, or they may be given oral antibiotics for a few days — whatever the surgeon thinks is more suitable given the surgical procedure and the patient's overall health. Antibiotics protect the patient from infection during these most vulnerable first days of healing.

There will always be some risk of infection after surgery, but today's vigilant surgeons and modern techniques have made that risk pretty low for most surgery patients. 

For more information, contact a general surgeon in your area.