Most women recover from a hysterectomy without incident, but infection is possible. There are ways to prevent infection after hysterectomy, such as the use of antibiotics before surgery. You may also avoid infection by following your doctor's orders regarding care of your incision and waiting to resume sexual intercourse. Additionally, you may find it beneficial to learn the signs of a post-hysterectomy infection. Being aware of the signs of an infection may not prevent one, but may help you to know when to seek treatment if one does develop.
One way of preventing infection after a hysterectomy is by using antibiotics. In some cases, patients are given antibiotics as a prophylactic treatment. This basically means that a doctor administers antibiotics before the surgery in the hopes of preventing infection. Doctors often discontinue the use of these antibiotics about 24 hours after completing the surgery. The idea with this preventative method is that having antibiotics already in your bloodstream at the time of surgery may make infection less likely.
You may also prevent infection after a hysterectomy by carefully following your doctor’s instructions about caring for the incision. For example, nurses can show you how to change the bandage and how to properly clean the wound. Likewise, your doctor’s instructions may warn against wearing tight clothing while your wound heals in order to promote dryness and prevent irritation.
You may also do well to follow your doctor's instructions regarding sexual intercourse and placing things into your vagina following a hysterectomy. For example, your doctor may ask you to avoid sexual intercourse for several weeks following a hysterectomy, especially if you have had a vaginal hysterectomy. Likewise, he may ask you to avoid placing anything inside the vagina, including douche products, for a time after surgery. This is because it is possible to introduce infection to vulnerable areas, even if the object you insert appears to be clean.
Being alert for signs of infection after a hysterectomy won’t necessarily help you avoid one, but may help you recognize the signs and get early treatment. A post-hysterectomy infection can sometimes be serious, and swift treatment is usually necessary. The signs of infection after a hysterectomy include a fever that is higher than about 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius), chills, and a significant increase in your level of pain. Bleeding that is heavier than you would expect with a menstrual period or an itchy or foul-smelling discharge may also indicate an infection. Additionally, an incision that is reddened, swollen, or leaking fluid or pus may be infected as well.