Patient Empowerment

Often neglected aspect of SSI prevention

Why patient empowerment is important for SSI prevention

“People have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their care.”1

The aspect of patient participation is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare sector. The patient should be seen less as a “recipient” and more as a “participant” in healthcare processes.2

International studies have already shown that informing, educating and involving patients in their care can have a positive effect on the prevention and control of infections.2

We have integrated recommendations here, taking into account the information and education of the patient.


GuidelineRecommendationCategory (if mentioned)
CDC3“Educate the patient and family regarding proper incision care, symptoms of SSI, and the need to report such symptoms.”Category II
NICE1“Offer patients and carers clear, consistent information and advice throughout all stages of their care. This should include the risks of surgical site infections, what is being done to reduce them and how they are managed. For more guidance on providing information to adults and discussing their preferences with them, see the NICE guideline on patient experience in adult NHS services.”-
“Offer patients and carers information and advice on how to care for their wound after discharge.”-
“Offer patients and carers information and advice about how to recognise a surgical site infection and who to contact if they are concerned. Use an integrated care pathway for healthcare-associated infections to help communicate this information to both patients and all those involved in their care after discharge.”-
“Always inform patients after their operation if they have been given antibiotics.”-
KRINKO5The Commission recommends that, in addition to the necessary information about the risks associated with the operation, the patient should be given basic information about the possibilities of preventing an SSI through hygiene-conscious behaviour and timely information about a deviating healing process.Category II


Denise Leistenschneider, Senior Clinical Consultant
“Infection prevention is a complex task that primarily concerns the patient and should therefore involve them closely.”

Recommended instructions

Patients and carers/family should be informed/educated clear and consistent about:

The risks of an operation5 and surgical site infections1

What is being done to reduce SSI1

How SSI are managed1

The possibility of preventing SSI by hygiene-conscious behaviour5

How to take care of the wound after discharge1,3

How to recognize a surgical site infection and the symptoms1,3

That and who to inform in case of healing deviations1,3,5

Patient empowerment from the patient's perspective6

Agreement with importance of patient participation to prevent SSI2

Participation strategies considered most effective2

The percentages given refer to the information provided by patients and professionals respectively

Oral presentation (47.2% and 75%)

Videos (40.7% and 58.7%)

Leaflets (30.9% and 58.7%)

All content and recommendations listed are to be regarded as extracts from the original literature and do not claim to be exhaustive.

Click to see full list References
  1. NICE (2020) Surgical site infections: prevention and treatment. NICE guidelines. Published: 11 April 2019. Last updated:19 August 2020.
  2. Oliveira MC, et al. (2023) Patient participation in surgical site infection prevention: perceptions of nurses, physicians and patients. Rev Esc Enferm USP 57: e20220459.
  3. CDC (1999) Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 20(4): 247–278.
  4. WHO (2018) Global guidelines for the prevention of surgical site infection. World Health Organization 2018.
  5. KRINKO (2018) Prävention postoperativer Wundinfektionen. Empfehlungen der Kommission für Krankenhaushygiene und Infektionsprävention (KRINKO) beim Robert Koch-Institut. Bundesgesundheitsbl 61: 448–473.
  6. Seale H, et al. (2015) Ask, speak up, and be proactive: Empowering patient infection control to prevent health care-acquired infections. Am J Infect Control 43(5): 447–453.

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