Recovering from surgery varies from person to person and procedure to procedure. But the one thing they all share is the potential for infection.

If you have a surgery requiring incisions, even small ones, it’s essential to watch these areas for signs of infection. This problem is fairly common, affecting as many as 2-5% of surgeries that require an incision. 

Each year, approximately 500,000 surgical site infections occur in the United States. There are three common types, including:

  • Skin — occurs in the layers of your skin where you have stitches
  • Muscle and tissue — develops in the soft tissues around your incisions
  • Organ and bone — penetrates deep inside your body

Plus, the more extensive the infection, the more dangerous and complicated it is to treat. Some infections, like sepsis, can even put your life at risk. Closely monitoring your incisions can help you detect a problem before it progresses.

Our team at Wound Evolution - Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine treats surgical wound complications, like infections, at each of our locations. Here are five common signs of infection to watch for when recovering from surgery.


It’s normal to have some redness at a surgical incision. But it should fade with time, not become redder as the days go by. You should also never have streaks of red radiating out from a wound.


Heat is your body’s natural way of protecting you from infection. That’s why you get a fever when you’re sick. If you notice that your incision site is hot to the touch, it means your immune system has kicked in and is sending white blood cells to the area to fight infection. 

Similarly, having a fever or malaise when recovering could indicate a systemic infection.


Healthy surgical wounds can drain, but the fluid should be clear or have very little color and improve each day. You should never see:

  • Pus
  • Thick or chunky discharge
  • Green, white, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid
  • Excessive bleeding

Similarly, the fluid or your incision site should never have a foul or sweet odor. 


Experiencing some mild swelling doesn’t guarantee an infection. But increased puffiness — especially with other signs of infection — can indicate a problem. Infections can also cause hardening at the incision site because of inflamed tissue beneath the surface.


You should expect to have some pain while healing. But your pain should start to decrease after surgery, not worsen or increase without an obvious cause. So if you find yourself experiencing pain but haven’t changed your medications or increased your activity too quickly, seek medical attention immediately.

Most surgical wound infections occur within 30 days of surgery, so it’s crucial to practice proper wound care and watch for signs of a problem. 

If you have a surgical wound, we can help. Schedule an evaluation to learn more about our expert wound care services today. We have locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, Texas, as well as Overland Park, Kansas.

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