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After surgery, you will need to take care of the incision as it heals. Caring for your incision may help lower the risk of problems like infection.
Your doctor may have used stitches, staples, skin glue, or tape strips to close the incision. You will need to keep the area clean, change the bandage according to your doctor's instructions, and watch for signs of infection.
If you did not get instructions from your doctor, follow this general advice.
To reduce the risk of infection:
You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Before you shower, cover the bandage with a plastic bag or use another method of keeping it dry. If the incision is on the front of your body, you can take a shower with your back to the shower head. Allow the warm and soapy water to run across your shoulders and down over the incision. Pat the incision dry.
You may notice some soreness, tenderness, tingling, numbness, and itching around the incision. There may also be mild oozing and bruising, and a small lump may form. This is normal and not a cause for concern.
Stitches or staples normally cause some redness and swelling where the stitch enters the skin, along with mild irritation and itching. Your stitches may dissolve over time. Or your doctor will tell you when to come back to have stitches or staples removed. You may have some drainage from the incision for the first few days after surgery. Contact your doctor if the discharge:
The incisions may be protected with skin glue or small adhesive strips instead of a bandage. If glue was used, be sure to dry the incision area right away if it gets wet. The glue will fall off on its own after a bit of time. If adhesive strips were used, leave them in place until they become loose and fall off on their own.
After some surgeries, you may be given special instructions other than these for taking care of the incision. Be sure to follow those instructions carefully. If you are confused by the instructions or you have a question, call your doctor's office. If the office is closed, leave a message with the answering service. If your pain has increased or you think you may have an infection, call your doctor as soon as possible. If you have not heard back from your doctor and you are feeling worse, such as you have a high fever or shaking chills, go to the emergency room for care.
Don't expose your incision to direct sun for 3 to 9 months after surgery. As an incision heals, the new skin that is formed over the cut is very sensitive to sunlight and will burn more easily than normal skin. Worse scarring may occur if the new skin is exposed to the sun or you get a sunburn.
Before you start, make sure you have gauze pads, a box of medical gloves, surgical tape, a plastic bag, and scissors.
Use these steps.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line if:
Current as of: November 30, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
Current as of: November 30, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
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