Sepsis and Surgery

Surgery is a procedure that can affect your body in many ways aside from the actual reason for the operation.  Surgical procedures can be major, like open heart surgery, or minor, like a biopsy. What they have in common is an incision. Any type of surgical procedure exposes your body to infection and other complications, some of which could develop into sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency that happens when your body’s response to an infection damages vital organs and, often, causes death. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Suggested Citation:
Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Surgery. 2024.

Updated June 18, 2024.


More About Surgery

Sepsis After Surgery

Infection after surgery can cause sepsis. This could be infection in the incision (the opening in the skin) or an infection that develops after the surgery, such as pneumonia or a UTI.

When you have surgery, it is important to monitor the incision, watching it for signs of infection. This would be:

  • Increasing redness around the incision
  • Pus or other fluid coming from the incision
  • Warmer than usual skin around the incision
  • Increased pain around the incision
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Pneumonia is not uncommon after having surgery, which is why it is important to get up and about as quickly as is possible after the operation. Deep breathing and coughing exercises are also helpful in keeping your lungs clear. Patients who needed a ventilator to help them breathe are also at a higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Other infections, such as UTIs may develop if you had to be catheterized (a tube inserted into your bladder). The longer the catheter remains in place, the higher the risk of infection.

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Dennis S.

After having a colonoscopy due to minor but long term bleeding, they found I had numerous tumors in my descending and transverse sections of my colon. Because they were in 2 of the 3, they said the whole colon had to be removed, the tumors would appear in the ascending portion within a year. Surgery was done, removed the colon, built a Hartman’s pouch and re- attached my intestine. Just 24hrs after surgery, something was wrong. (Sepsis and Surgery) They had placed me in a ICU unit in an induced coma. It took a couple days but found out 1 ... Read Full Story

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Michael Callaghan

Hi, my name is Michael this is my story regarding sepsis, I went into hospital on the 3rd of August 2023 for major abdominal surgery after my 1st operation I got discharged, then I was rushed back into hospital were they traced sepsis. (Sepsis and Surgery) This ended up with me bed ridden for 7 months and another 3 operations this was a scary experience as I still ask myself how I got through this. Every night I went to sleep I said to a nurse, I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow as I can’t live like this anymore. ... Read Full Story

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Charlene W.

Hello to everyone, my story begins Jan 2024 after I had full hysterectomy surgery. (Sepsis and Surgery) They sent me home with the catheter in my bladder which gave me a UTI. (Sepsis and Urinary Tract Infections) I was given antibiotics but obviously it wasn’t caught in time before invading my bloodstream and organs. A few days later my sister rushed me to the ER and demanded I was seen immediately. I was lethargic, weak, in pain, eyes yellow, 103 temp, very delusional. Immediately they started running tests, etc., and was told I had sepsis. I spent 2 weeks in ... Read Full Story

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Triesta Stone

I had 3 surgeries leading to full shoulder replacement. Following septic shock. I was septic for 8 days before antibiotics. I am lucky to be alive, they say. (Sepsis and Surgery, Sepsis and Joint Replacements) I’m left with no energy, kidney failure, nonalcoholic cirrhosis, PTSD, MDD [major depressive disorder], GAD [generalized anxiety disorder], night terrors, insomnia, hair loss ,pain every day. I was a full time cosmetologist. I just got denied disability. I feel like giving up sometimes. Read Full Story

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Joseph Graziano

My father died on March 6th, 2022, at a major New York City hospital from septic shock. (Sepsis and Septic Shock) He was 75 years old. He underwent a cardiac procedure when a complication occurred. (Sepsis and Surgery) The complication was not detected and therefore not treated. He was discharged after 24 hours and given two follow-up appointments dates. The first follow-up appointment was two weeks post-op and the second appointment was a week after that. He was not ordered to undergo any post-op testing. While at home recovering, he experienced numerous symptoms. We all thought is was covid or ... Read Full Story

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