Introduction: Surgery in patients with head and neck cancers is frequently complicated by multiple stages of procedure that includes significant surgical removal of all or part of an organ with cancer, tissue reconstruction, and extensive neck dissection. Postoperative wound infections, termed ‘surgical site infections’ (SSIs) are a significant impediment to head-and-neck cancer surgery and recovery, and need to be addressed. Areas covered: Approximately 10–45% of patients undergoing head-and-neck cancers surgery develop SSIs. SSIs can lead to delayed wound healing, increased morbidity and mortality as well as costs. Consequently, SSIs need to be avoided where possible, as even the surgery itself impacts on patients’ subsequent activities and their quality of life, which is exacerbated by SSIs. Several risk factors for SSIs need to be considered to reduce future rates, and care is also needed in the selection and duration of antibiotic prophylaxis. Expert commentary: Head and neck surgeons should give personalized care especially to patients at high risk of SSIs. Such patients include those who have had chemoradiotherapy and need reconstructive surgery, and patients from lower and middle-income countries and from poorer communities in high income countries, who often have high levels of co-morbidity because of resource constraints.
- surgical site infections