Signs of Infection a Week After Surgery

Mature man with high fever in bed
Fever of more than 100.4 degrees is just one symptom of post-surgical infection. (Image: tab1962/iStock/Getty Images)

All surgery carries some level of post-surgical infection risk. Infection can occur directly at the incision site or within surrounding areas of the body. Many surgical patients are discharged shortly after undergoing surgery, so be aware of the earliest symptoms of infection. According to Dr. Frederick R. Jelovsek of Women's Health Resource, most severe complications will show up by the third week after an operation.

Fever

A slightly elevated temperature is normal just after surgery, but 100.4 degrees is the limit. Fever higher than that should be discussed with a doctor. A temperature that rises more than a few days after surgery may indicate infection.

Discharge, Normal and Abnormal

Slight amounts of blood or clear fluid drainage at the incision site is normal. eOrtthopod.com advises that In the event of heavier bleeding or of drainage that is "cloudy, yellow, or foul smelling," you should contact a physician.

Pain and Discomfort

Some amount of pain or discomfort is normal. This is usually most bothersome during the first few days following surgery and should be alleviated with minimal to moderate levels of prescribed pain medication. Extreme pain that prompts you to "double over" or be otherwise immobilized may indicate infected tissue. Excruciatingly sharp pain at or around the incision site can also point to infection.

Swelling

Some inflammation of the area around the surgical wound is to be expected. But if swelling around the incision site persists or becomes worse after several days, there may be infection present in the surgical wound. Reddish, tender skin or a burning sensation at the site may also be signs of infection.

Overall Feeling of Illness

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center website notes that as with other types of infection, post-surgical infections can cause general sensations of discomfort, such as headache, joint or muscle aching, or light-headedness.

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