Infection After Surgery: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

After surgery, an infection is always possible. It doesn't mean that the surgery didn't go well.

Because an infection can be serious, your doctor has taken steps to manage it.

Your doctor checked the infection and cleaned it if necessary. He or she may have made an opening in the area so that the pus can drain out. You may have gauze in the cut so that the area will stay open and keep draining. You may need antibiotics.

You will need to follow up with your doctor to make sure the infection has gone away.

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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Make sure your surgeon knows that you saw a doctor about the infection.
  • 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.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Prop up the area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • If you have a bandage, keep it clean and dry.
  • You may have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this. You can expect drainage from the wound.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your incision, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the incision with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have signs that your infection is getting worse, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A new or higher fever.

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

Where can you learn more?

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

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Current as of: May 27, 2016