Wound Debridement: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

After surgery to remove debris or dead tissue from your wound (debridement), you can expect some pain and swelling around your wound. This should get better within a few days after the procedure. You may have a bandage or a moist dressing over your wound. Your doctor will let you know how long to keep it on and how often to change it.

The amount of time it will take for your wound to heal depends on how serious your wound is and whether you have any other health problems that may slow healing. You may need to have the wound debrided again.

How soon you can return to work and your normal routine depends on the type of work you do and how you feel. For example, if your wound is on your arm and your job requires you to do heavy lifting, you may need to wait until your wound has healed before you go back to work.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Avoid activities that put stress on the affected body part until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Change positions often to keep pressure off your wound, and spread your body weight evenly with cushions, mattresses, foam wedges, or other pressure-relieving devices.
  • If your wound is on your leg or foot, you may have to use crutches, a supportive boot, or a fitted shoe to keep pressure off your wound. If you need crutches, it may help to use a backpack or wear clothes with a lot of pockets to carry items.
  • Do not shower for at least 24 hours after the procedure or for as long as your doctor tells you to. When you shower, keep your dressing and wound dry.
  • Do not take a bath, swim, use a hot tub, or soak your affected body part until your wound has healed.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with enough protein to help the wound heal. Protein is a key nutrient in helping to repair damaged tissue and promote new tissue growth. Good sources of protein are milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, and beans.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your doctor prescribed an antibiotic ointment that you put on the wound, use it as directed.

Wound care

  • A moist dressing may cover your wound. A dressing helps the wound heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you had a skin graft, you may have a bandage that is stitched over the graft. Your doctor will remove the bandage and stitches.

Other instructions

  • Don't smoke. Smoking dries out the skin, reduces blood flow to the skin, and slows healing. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.
  • The wound starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • You have loose stitches, or your skin graft comes loose.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The wound is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: June 4, 2016