Unfortunately, developing infections after surgery does still happen occasionally even with using intravenous antibiotics before surgery and proper sterile technique and preparation. There have certainly been advances in sterile technique to decrease these rates, but we still think postop infections develop in approximately 1% of surgeries.
If the infection postoperatively is superficial, oral antibiotics are typically sufficient to take care of this without any further treatment. For many foot and ankle surgeries and trauma related accidents, we have to implant either titanium hardware for fractures and osteotomies, or bio composite anchors for tendon and ligament repairs. If any of these implants get infected after surgery, treatment becomes more complicated.
If hardware gets infected after surgery, x-rays can be helpful, but advanced imaging such as MRI or CT is often more helpful and lab work can also be helpful to determine the extent of the infection. Many times, the first step in treating the infection is to remove the infected hardware and perform a debridement of the affected tissue. If bone infection has developed, this is typically treated by 6 weeks of intravenous antibiotics. We typically refer patients to infectious disease specialist who specializes in figuring out which antibiotic is best to treat the particular type of infection.
At the same time as the hardware removal, we take deep cultures to figure out exactly which bacteria is involved and then often times will biopsy the soft tissue or bone around the area. These are helpful steps to determine the extent infection.
Thankfully, with hardware removal and intravenous antibiotics many infections can be resolved with these techniques. Unfortunately, if this fails, further surgery is necessary. These complications are more common in patients that have diabetes mellitus and/or neuropathy. If these complications develop and intravenous antibiotics and surgical debridements or not helpful enough, amputation can sometimes be necessary.
It is important not to delay treatment of infections, because they can certainly worsen and spread. One of the worst ways they can spread is when they get into the bloodstream where patients develop sepsis. Sepsis happens when infection/bacteria is in the blood and can travel all around the body.
We are seeing an increase in delay of treating infections in our current times, because some patients are delaying their treatment due to COVID-19. If you are suffering from any foot and ankle problems, call your expert Colorado Springs foot and ankle surgeons and podiatrists today at 719-488-4664. We are taking all the proper precautions to ensure you can have a safe visit at the Foot and Ankle Institute of Colorado if you need to see us for any reason.