Staph infections are often thought of as something that happens in a hospital before or after surgery. However, such infections can also occur after you’re discharged, and sometimes at a time during the healing process when it’s something you’re not expecting or looking for. For this reason, it’s important to have a solid understanding of staph infections before your spinal surgery.
What Is a Staph Infection?
Caused by the presence of staphylococcus bacteria, a staph infection can occur anytime there is an open wound or whenever the skin is punctured or cut, as is the case with spine surgery. Even a minimally invasive spine procedure presents some degree of infection risk. Staph infections can range from simple strains of the bacteria to antibiotic-resistant varieties.
Symptoms of a Staph Infection
Skin infections are the type of staph infection most likely to affect a patient who has just had spine surgery. Bacteremia, or blood poisoning, occurs if staph bacteria enter the bloodstream. Look for:
- Increased pain
- Warmth of the skin at the infection site
- Crusted, yellow skin
- Low blood pressure
Toxic Shock Syndrome
A potentially life-threatening condition, toxic shock syndrome occurs when certain strains of staph bacteria become toxic. Developing suddenly, symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain
- High fever
Staph Infection Treatments
Staph infections are treated with antibiotics. Due to the tendency to overuse antibiotics in the United States, some strains require stronger antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
Preventing Staph Infections
Follow any instructions you’ll be given about wound cleaning prior to leaving the hospital. Wash your hands frequently with mild soap and warm water, especially before changing the dressing covering your wound. When you are given the okay, carefully clean the incision site as directed and fully dry the area.
A staph infection called cellulitis that affects the skin is the most common type of staph infection in North America. While approximately 25 percent of the population has staph bacteria present with no symptoms, susceptibility to infection increases greatly after something like spine surgery. If you notice any unusual redness, swelling, or pain, contact your doctor.
For more information or to learn more about surgical procedures to relieve back pain, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration by calling (310) 828-7757. Our team of experienced spine surgeons, lead by Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae, can diagnose the source of your pain and provide you with treatment options ranging from motion-preserving spinal surgeries to traditional fusion options.