Postoperative Fever

Post Operative Fever
Postoperative Fever
Post Operative Fever
• Fever >38ºC is common after surgery
• Usually inflammatory stimulus of surgery and resolves
• Fever = response to cytokine release
– Fever-associated cytokines are released by tissue
trauma and do not necessarily signal infection
– Cytokines produced by monocyte, macrophages,
endothelial cells
– Fever-associated cytokines = IL-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha,
Post Operative Fever
DDX: The 5 W’s
Wind (POD#0)
Water (POD#3)
Wound (POD#5)
Atelectasis, pneumonia
UTI, anastomotic leak
Wound infection, abscess
Post Operative Fever
DDX: Immediate Fever
• Immediate fever: onset in OR or in the immediate
postoperative period
• DDX:
– Medication reactions: antibiotics, blood products,
malignant hyperthermia. Often p/w hypotension.
– Necrotizing infection: Clostridium, Group A β-hemo
strep. Treatment: ABC, resuscitate, ABX: pip/tazo
and clindamycin, surgical debridement
Post Operative Fever
DDX: Acute Fever
• Acute fever: first week after surgery
• DDX:
– necrotizing infection (within 48hrs)
– anastomotic leak (classically POD# 3 to 5)
– Pulmonary embolism
– MI
– Pneumonia
– Aspiration
– Surgical site infection (SSI)
– ETOH withdrawal
– Other: acute gout, pancreatitis
Post Operative Fever
DDX: Subacute
• Subacute fever: >1 week after surgery
• DDX:
– Surgical site infection
– Line infection
– Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
– Febrile drug reactions
– Thrombophlebitis
– Sinusitis
Post Operative Fever
• ABCs
• Resuscitate
• HPI: anesthesia record, operative note, nursing report,
• PE:
– Complete exam
– Look at wounds - take off dressings
– Look at drain output
– Check PIV sites, CVL, Foley, tubes
Post Operative Fever
• Labs to order if concerned for infection:
– CBC w diff, sputum Cx, UCx, Blood Cx x2
– C. diff toxin assay
• Imaging:
– CXR (for pneumonia)
– Lower extremity venous duplex (for DVT)
– CT scan (for abscess, leak, pancreatitis, PE)
Post Operative Fever
• Intervention needed?
• Remove/replace sources of infection
– Foley catheter, central lines, or peripheral
– Open, debride, and drain infected wounds
• If suspect pneumonia, bacteremia, UTI,
sepsis – start broad spectrum antibiotics
• Anticoagulation for DVT/PE
• CT guided drainage of abscess
Post Operative Fever
Case 1
• 58y M 5hrs after B/L total knee arthroplasty. Temp
38.7 C. Pain adequately controlled w/meds. No
• PE: HR 90, BP 130/70, O2 sat: 99%
– Mild serosanguinous drainage from knees
– No Foley or CVL
– WBC 7
• What is your plan?
Post Operative Fever
Case 1
• What is your plan?
– A. Urine culture
– B. Blood, urine cultures & CXR
– C. Blood, urine cultures & vancomycin
– D. Observation only
Post Operative Fever
Case 2
• 65y F w/ obesity, DM now 5hrs s/p open
cholecystectomy for gangrenous cholecystitis c/o
abdominal pain. Temp 40C, tachycardia.
• VW: HR 140, BP 88/50, O2 Sat 94%
• PE: AMS, wound is blistered, +crepitus, w/ dirty
dishwater drainage
• What is your diagnosis?
• What is your plan?
Post Operative Fever
Case 2
What is your diagnosis?
A. Cellulitis
B. Diffuse peritonitis
This patient is in septic shock
C. Necrotizing fasciitis
D. Uncomplicated post operative fever
What is your plan?
A. Observe
B. ABC, resuscitate, IV antibiotics
C. ABC, resuscitate, IV antibiotics, immediate
surgical debridement
Post Operative Fever
Case 3
• 61y F w rheumatoid arthritis on methotrexate
undergoes left total hip replacement. Foley
catheter present postoperatively. POD#3 temp
38.1C, Foley is removed. POD#4 temp 38.5 C.
• She has been ambulating and using incentive
• PE: O2 Sats and vitals are normal, wound is clean
Post Operative Fever
Case 3
• What is the most likely diagnosis?
– A. Deep venous thrombosis
– B. Urinary tract infection
– C. Superficial wound infection
– D. Prosthesis infection
• UTI evaluation: history, U/A, urine culture
• Evaluate for other possibilities
Post Operative Fever
Take Home Points
• The 5 W’s
• Think the worst and rule it out!
• Necrotizing fasciitis must be identified and
treated aggressively

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