Surgical wounds may result from post-surgical incisions, IV sites, skin grafts or other procedures. They are typically closed with stitches, staples or glue, and most begin to heal within days of the surgery. Post-surgical care of wounds may continue for days or weeks, depending on the type of wound and the overall health of the patient, and is crucial to prevent infection and reduce the risk of post-operative complications. Knowing how to heal surgical wounds will also reduce the risk of significant scarring and repeat operations.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Ice pack
- Replacement dressings and gauze pads
- Over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment
Apply an ice pack to your surgical wound for 15 minutes, every few hours, for the first day or two following your surgery. This will reduce swelling and bruising and speed healing.
Change your dressings as directed by your doctor and only after properly washing your hands with soap and water. Gently pull the dressing away from your wound, and be careful not to pull out any stitches that may be caught in the bandages. Typically, your original dressing will need to remain in place for at least a few days, unless it becomes soiled or soaked with blood.
Resist pulling out loose stitches, but you can trim any ends that are sticking out or catching on clothing with a clean pair of scissors. If your stitches are causing pain, it may mean your wound is infected.
Return to your doctor as scheduled to have your stitches removed. Some stitches dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed by a doctor. Your surgeon should tell you what type of stitches were used during your procedure.
Keep any skin glue or tissue adhesive dry for five days, or as instructed by your doctor. Allowing the glue to become wet will make it less strong and may result in the glue peeling away from your skin before your wound has healed. The glue will begin to peel off on its own within 10 days.
Wash your wound with soapy water or a saline solution twice each day by gently rinsing it or dabbing it with a wet gauze pad. Do not rub your wound or use harsh soaps or chemicals on the area.
Wait to shower or bathe until your surgeon says it is OK to do so. In most cases, patients with smaller surgical wounds can take a gentle shower within a day or two of surgery. Bathing may not be allowed for several days or weeks. Make certain to dry your surgical wound gently, but thoroughly, after showering or bathing.
Use a topical antibacterial ointment on your wound if your doctor has prescribed one. This should be applied every time you change your dressings, and after each cleaning of your surgical wound.
Watch for signs of infection in your surgical wound. Your wound may be infected if it looks swollen or red, becomes increasingly painful, smells bad or leaks pus or blood. If any of these symptoms develop, or if you begin running a fever, contact your doctor for further instructions.
Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration and a poor diet can slow healing and make your body more vulnerable to infection. If you feel unwell, or if your post-operative medications are causing nausea or a poor appetite, let your doctor know. He may be able to change your medication.
Avoid wearing clothing or anything else that may rub against your surgical wound and increase irritation. An irritated wound is more likely to become infected, and friction may cause your stitches to fall out early or cause your wound to break open.
Take any medications prescribed by your surgeon, including antibiotics and pain relievers. Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen because these products may increase bleeding and bruising.
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