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JAMA Patient Page
October 26, 2005

Wound Infections

JAMA. 2005;294(16):2122. doi:10.1001/jama.294.16.2122

Skin protects the body from infection. Breaks in the skin can occur through punctures (like a nail or a thorn), abrasions (scrapes or scratches), or lacerations (rips in the skin tissue). Healthy individuals can develop infections through wounds in the skin. However, it is more likely that persons with underlying immune system (the body's ability to fight infection) problems will develop wound infections if a break in their skin occurs. The October 26, 2005, issue of JAMA includes an article about use of supplemental oxygen to decrease the risk of surgical wound infections.

The incision (cut) in the skin performed for an operation can become infected. Surgical wound infections can range from redness surrounding a small portion of the incision to deeper infections involving underlying muscles or to a severe infection spread through the bloodstream. Doctors take precautions to prevent surgical wound infections, including use of sterile (free from germs) procedures and instruments and appropriate use of antibiotics. Risk factors for surgical wound infections include diabetes, emergency procedures, smoking, severe obesity, altered immune function, malnutrition, low body temperature, and long operation times.