Self-Diagnosis of Surgical Site Infections: Lessons From a Tertiary Care Centre in Karachi, Pakistan

Background and Objective: Surgical site infections (SSIs) usually manifest post-discharge, rendering accurate diagnosis and treatment challenging, thereby catalyzing the development of alternate strategies like self-monitored SSI surveillance. This study aimed to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of patients and Infection Control Monitors (ICMs) to develop a replicable method of SSI-detection.
Methods: A two-year prospective diagnostic accuracy study was conducted in Karachi, Pakistan between 2015 and 2017. Patients were educated about SSIs and provided with questionnaires to elicit symptoms of SSI during post-discharge self-screening. Results of patient’s self-screening and ICM evaluation at followups were compared to surgeon evaluation.
Results: A total of 348 patients completed the study, among whom 18 (5.5%) developed a SSI. Patient selfscreening had a sensitivity of 39%, specificity of 95%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 28%, and negative predictive value (NPV) of 97%. ICM evaluation had a sensitivity of 82%, specificity of 99%, PPV of 82%, and NPV of 99%.
Conclusion: Patients cannot self-diagnose a SSI reliably. However, diagnostic accuracy of ICMs is significantly higher and they may serve as a proxy for surgeons, thereby reducing the burden on specialized surgical workforce in LMICs. Regardless, supplementing post-discharge follow-up with patient self-screening could
increase SSI-detection and reduce burden on health systems.