Caring For Your Incision After Surgery
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When you’re recovering from surgery, the last thing you want is a problem with your incision. An incision is the cut or wound from a surgery. It is sewn closed by your healthcare provider. It may also be stapled, taped, or glued closed. With proper care, it turns into a scar. Taking care of your incision after surgery is important to your health. Proper care can reduce the risk of infection and help you return to normal sooner. Incisions vary by size and location.
After surgery, your healthcare provider will tell you how to care for your incision. Their instructions might include:
- When to remove the bandage. In some cases, your bandage should be removed the day after surgery. This depends on the location of the surgery, the seriousness of the surgery, and incision. Most wounds don’t require a bandage after a few days. However, you may decide to wear a bandage to protect the incision.
- Keep your incision dry. This is especially true for the first 24 hours. Avoid showering or bathing the first day. Try taking a sponge bath instead. It’s usually okay to wash with soap and water by the second day. Take a shower instead of a bath if you have stitches or skin tape on your incision. Gently towel dry the incision after washing.
- Removing the stitches. This is done by your healthcare provider. You should not remove your own stitches. They will remove stitches that don’t disappear into your skin on their own. Those types of stitches are usually removed 3 days to 3 weeks after surgery. This will depend on where they are and how quickly you heal. Your healthcare provider may apply skin tape after the stitches are removed. Skin tape provides additional wound support. The tape can be removed in 3 to 7 days. Sometimes, your incision will be closed with internal stitches (stitches under the surface of your skin). Those typically are absorbed by your body gradually and don’t need to be removed. Healing skin may need months to regain most of its strength.
- Limit movement of the area around the stitches. Avoid activities that could cause your incision to pull apart. Your healthcare provider may ask you to avoid lifting, straining, exercise or sports for the first month or so after surgery. Contact your healthcare provider if the incision pulls apart.
- Always wash your hands before caring for your incision.
Things to consider
- If your incision is red, this may be a sign of infection. Some redness is normal. However, contact your healthcare provider if the redness is increasing or if it spreads more than half an inch from the wound. Contact your healthcare provider if you see pus in the incision or if the incision is more than mildly tender or painful. Your healthcare provider may ask you to apply an antibiotic ointment to the incision. This does not require a prescription.
- If your incision bleeds, replace your bandage with a clean, dry bandage or gauze. Applying pressure directly to the incision for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. If it continues to bleed, contact your healthcare provider.
- If you’re outside in the sun, cover your scar with tape or sunscreen for the first 6 months after surgery. A healing scar will darken and become more noticeable if it gets sunburned.