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Fever After Surgery

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Updated March 22, 2013

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A Temperature After Surgery Can Be Serious

Getty Images/Jeffrey Coolidge
Question: Fever After Surgery
My surgeon said a low-grade fever after surgery is very common. What causes a fever after surgery?
Answer:

There are many reasons that you might develop a fever after surgery, and how severe it is depends upon the cause. There are dozens of reasons that your temperature might be elevated after a surgical procedure, most are related to the procedure, but some are not.

It is important to take your temperature daily in the week following surgery. While a fever after surgery is the single most common complication and isn't necessarily alarming, it should never be ignored. A serious fever -- 102 degrees F or higher -- indicates the need for medical attention, but all fevers should be reported to your surgeon.

Causes of Fever After Surgery:

Non-Surgical Reasons For Fever:

  • Virus, such as the flu
  • Cold
  • Sore Throat
  • Neurological Fever: This type of fever is caused by a brain injury and will not respond to normal interventions, such as Ibuprofen.

The cause of your fever may not be obvious, and a low-grade fever may not even warrant treatment. Often, a fever between 99 and 101 is allowed to run it's own course without medication. Higher temperatures typically require greater attention and may require testing to identify the cause.

Sources:

Evaluating Postoperative Fever: A Focused Approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. April 2011. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf

Fever In the Postoperative Patient: A Chilling Problem. The Canadian Journal of CME. Accessed April 2011. http://www.stacommunications.com/journals/cme/2004/May/PDF/093.pdf

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