Quick Pimps: Causes of Postoperative Fever

Postoperative fever is an extremely common finding and therefore an extremely common topic for med students to be pimped on. Fever is found in as many as 91% of post-op patients. It is most often benign and self-limited and a normal physiologic response to the trauma of surgery.  However it can be due to a variety of causes, some benign and some life threatening.

  • Ws mnemonic
    • POD 1-2: Wind– Pneumonia, Aspiration, PE (NOT ATELECTASIS…listen to podcast for more details)
    • POD 3-5: Water– UTI
    • POD ~5: Walking– DVT, PE
    • POD ~7: Wound– Surgical Site Infection
    • POD >7: What we did– Line infections of drug/blood product reactions at any time
    • POD >10: Wonder Where?- Deep Abcess

Causes of Postoperative Fever Podcast

Postoperative fever notes

Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. By James C. Pile MD

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2 Comments on “Quick Pimps: Causes of Postoperative Fever”

  1. Rob Livingston says:

    I enjoyed your discussion on atalectasis. It seems that this is another example of incorrect information being rampant in medical teachings and texts. But in this case does it matter or is that just an academic argument?

    • Thank you. That is a good point. I discussed this topic with a surgeon I was working with. He was still under the impression that atelectasis caused fever and I spoke with him about the studies I had read and the evidence I found. He ultimately thought it was interesting and agrees that it may not be a cause but was unsure if that would change his practice at all.
      I don’t know how this would translate in to changing clinical practice but it is my opinion that it is always best to understand the basic pathophysiology behind common signs and symptoms.


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