Purpose: Surgical site infection is the most common hospital-acquired infection in surgical patients. Recently, public health organizations have updated prevention guidelines. This review discusses surgical site infections as a complication of abdominal wall reconstruction. Methods: The authors reviewed guidelines on prevention of surgical site infections from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and put them into context with the relevant abdominal wall reconstruction literature. This was the subject of the Nyhus–Wantz lecture given at The International Hernia Congress on March 14, 2018 in Miami, FL and is summarized here. Results: Routine use of preoperative antibiotics in prosthetic groin hernia repair is not supported by the available literature. High-quality data on antibiotic prophylaxis in ventral (both primary and incisional) hernia repair is lacking, but it is widely utilized and may reduce SSIs. Recommended preventative strategies discussed in this manuscript include: treatment of remote site infections, perioperative normothermia and normoglycemia, avoidance of hypoxemia, antiseptic preparation of surgical team hands and patient skin, treatment of obesity, smoking cessation, correction of malnutrition, and physical conditioning. Conclusion: Surgical site infections lead to significant morbidity and mortality, hernia recurrences, prolonged hospital stay, and increased hospital costs. This makes surgical site infections the “Achilles Heel” of abdominal wall reconstruction. Strict adherence to standardized guidelines and preoperative optimization of patients’ risk profiles are crucial to decrease the incidence of surgical site infections.
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