Surgery Wound Care Overview
When you’re discharged from the hospital, you may have received a huge packet of information regarding medications, when to make an appointment for follow up, any tests or imaging you might have received and most importantly how to take care of your wound.
We know that it is a lot of information, and it may be a little confusing. Check out this wound guide to know what to look for, how to take care of it, and how to prevent infections.
Your primary dressing is the dressing that you have when you leave the hospital. Many surgeons have the primary dressing remain on anywhere from 5-7 days. You should do your best to keep it dry and clean until your surgeon says it is ok for you or your visiting nurse to take it off.
If water gets underneath the dressing, it may cause the skin or incision underneath to break down, increasing the risk for infection.
Some tips to help you keep your dressings dry are:
- Sponge bath or use approved body wipes as a substitute for showering until the primary dressing can come off
- Plastic bags or plastic wraps can be used to wrap an arm and a leg to keep the dressing dry. Remember to tape the bags and do not immerse fully in water
- For smaller extremities such as fingers and hands, non-lubricated condoms can be used. Be sure to seal the end with waterproof tape and avoid as much water as possible
- Specialty bandage covers can be purchased as well, to better cover your dressing
Image courtesy of Sunrise Specialty
Now that your dressing can come off, how should you take care of your incision? To help maintain the integrity of your incision, remember to not immerse your incision in hot tubs, baths or the beach until cleared by your surgeon.
Whether you have staples, sutures or glue to close your incision, many times it’s ok to shower directly over them! Remember to let the soap and water rinse over the incision and do not scrub the incision site. Also, do not put any creams or lotions over the incision as it may cause irritation and skin breakdown.
Once it is fully healed, are you allowed to put any lotions or creams to help with scarring.
When coming out of the shower, remember to pat, and not rub the incision dry! This will help keep your incision closed for good healing.
After your shower you can place dry gauze and paper tape over the incision to prevent irritation from clothing and to soak up drainage.
Avoid touching your incision as much as possible, and use gloves that you can purchase from your local pharmacy.
Something is oozing out of my incision? Is that ok?
Some drainage from your incision is completely normal and is expected! You may accidentally over exert one day or have a harder than usual session with PT causing a little bit of bleeding as well.
Normal drainage that is expected from the wound will be light red color or straw colored. Some oozing with blood will be expected as well.
Remember to change your gauze and tape at least once daily and as it gets soiled. If you notice there is an increased amount of drainage over time, or you are changing your gauze and tape multiple times a day because it keeps soaking, contact your surgeon.
When is drainage bad?
Although some drainage is to be expected, there are some types of drainage that are more concerning. The biggest concern to any surgical site or wound is infection. If you notice purulent drainage, greenish-tinged drainage, or pus-like drainage from the wound contact your surgeon immediately. They may prescribe antibiotics or have you come into the office for further evaluation.
When should I be concerned and reach out to the surgeon’s office or hospital?
One complication that should require an immediate call to your surgeon or going to the emergency room is if you notice that your incision has opened up. This may be due to poor wound healing, or if you accidentally over exert yourself one day and tear a staple or stitch.
Cover the wound with dry tape and gauze to help protect it from further infection and reach out to your surgeon.
Unfortunately, any surgical procedure increases the prospects of infection. Signs that you should reach out to your surgeon’s office immediately are
- Your wound has become red, warm to the touch, swollen and enflamed
- You notice purulent drainage or pus
- Fevers, chills, nausea or vomiting
- If you notice you become more short of breath, call 911
We hope that with these tips, it will help you have a healthier, safer and faster recovery!
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