Surgical Site Infections

What is a surgical site infection (SSI)?


Patients undergoing surgical procedures are at increased risk for infectious complications. The skin is a barrier against harmful bacteria, and when an incision is made that barrier is compromised. While advances have been made in infection control practices in the operating room, surgical site infections are always a risk.

SSI surveillance

Surveillance is the practice of monitoring for infections, and OHSU performs surgical site infection surveillance in multiple ways. Our infection preventionists and infectious disease physicians will round on our surgical units and identify patients that may be developing infections. OHSU surgeons, nurses, and other staff will alert IPC of possible infection outbreaks. And finally, IPC performs intensive, procedure-specific surveillance on certain procedures. These procedures are chosen because they may be at higher risk, or because of public reporting mandates. Currently the department performs surveillance on the following procedures:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgeries
  • Knee prosthetic surgeries
  • Hip prosthetic surgeries
  • Laminectomies
  • Abdominal hysterectomies
  • Craniotomies
  • Ventricular shunt surgeries (pediatric only)
  • Spinal fusions

OHSU uses the CDC's NHSN SSI definitions and methodologies.  For more information on this, check out the following links:

Public reporting of surgical site infections

OHSU is required by the State of Oregon and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to publicly report certain surgical site infections. All hospitals throughout the state are required to participate in the Healthcare Acquired Infection (HAI) reporting program, which is overseen by Oregon Health Policy and Research (OHPR) under the Oregon Health Authority.  For more information on the requirements for reporting and to view the latest HAI reports, visit the OHPR website.