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An Infected C-Section Cut: What to Look for and When to Seek Medical Advice

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: BStone • updated: 2/24/2011

Cesarean section is a surgical procedure performed to deliver the baby from the mother's womb by making a cut in the abdomen. It has a high mortality rate because of the wound infection that can arise from a c-section. Learn more about the consequences and diagnosis of an infected c-section cut.

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    About Cesarean Deliveries

    Cesarean delivery is the form of childbirth that is recommended in these pregnancy cases:

    • Labor is slow, hardly progressing, and stops completely.
    • The baby shows signs of distress that are evident the heart rate (too slow or too fast).
    • The umbilical cord is coiled around the baby, or in a certain manner that could be fatal for the baby.
    • The baby is too big for vaginal delivery.
    • There is an infection that could be passed to the baby if delivered through the vagina.
    • The baby is not in the head-down position during the time near the delivery date.
    • More than one baby is to be delivered, or multiple pregnancy.

    In such cases, the baby and the mother's life can be saved by preventing complications that could arise from vaginal delivery. However, cesarean section has a high mortality rate because of complication that may arise from a wound infection after delivery. Learn more about the symptoms to look for and when to seek medical advice for an infected c-section cut.

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    Post-Cesarean Wound Infection: Forms of Wound, Warning Signs, and Risk Factors

    Post-cesarean wound infection develops due to a bacterial infection, occurring after the incision made during cesarean delivery. A patient that has contracted a wound infection experiences a moderately high fever (101 to 103 degrees F) and pains in the lower abdomen. The wound infection may be of two forms: wound cellulitis or an abscess.

    • Wound cellulitis is caused by staphylococcal and streptococcal organisms, which make up a part of the normal bacterial population of the skin. Once the tissue under the skin becomes inflamed, redness and swelling spread rapidly on the area where the incision was made, and goes outward to the adjacent skin. A patient that experiences tenderness and warmth on the infected skin, but without the presence of pus, can attribute these symptoms to wound cellulitis.
    • A wound abscess is caused by the same bacteria in cellulitis, along with the other bacteria such as group B streptococci and E. coli. The most common symptoms of a wound abscess are redness, tenderness, and swelling along the margin where the incision was made. A drainage of pus from the incision is also experienced.

    Patients that have diabetes, HIV infection, chorioamnionitis during labor are likely to contract a post-cesarean wound infection. This is also true for those that take steroids (whether orally or intravenously) and those that are obese.

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    Consequences and Diagnosis of Post-Cesarean Wound Infection

    Aside from the physical discomforts that are experienced during a wound infection, the patient's stay in the hospital will also be prolonged because of the necessary treatments for the wound infection. Treatment usually lasts for two days, and this increases the hospitalization costs. Serious complications can also arise from a wound infection, such as necrotizing fasciitis, rupture of the fascia, and evisceration (opening of the wound, with the bowel protruding through the incision). These complications would require another major operation, where recovery can take quite a length of time.

    A patient that has experienced the symptoms for each form of wound infection should seek medical advice promptly. The doctor will study the wound by opening it with a cloth or cotton swab, or by using a needle to remove pus from the wound. If pus is drained, this will be tested so that the bacteria can be cultured and identified. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of the wound infection will prevent serious complications.

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    Conclusion

    Cesarean delivery is recommended in pregnancy cases that can be detrimental to the mother and the baby. The surgical procedure performed in this form of childbirth is intricate, and contracting a wound infection is likely particularly to patients that are risk factors (diabetics, obese, has HIV infection). The usual symptoms associated with a wound infection are moderately high fever, lower abdominal pains, and tenderness and swelling of the wound (may or may not be accompanied by pus). It is advisable for patients to promptly seek medical advice at the onset of these symptoms to avoid serious complications.

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    Resources

    Robertson, Audra, MD, "Post-Cesarean Wound Infection," http://www.healthline.com/yodocontent/pregnancy/post-cesarean-wound-infection.html

    Hill, Ashley,MD, "Cesarean Section," http://www.childbirthsolutions.com/articles/birth/cesarean/index.php