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Opened Cut After Surgery: Care Instructions


Sometimes a cut made during surgery opens when it isn't supposed to. This may be because of an infection or another problem that keeps the cut's edges from staying together.

The doctor has checked your open cut. Your doctor may have put a dressing in the cut but left it open to heal. This lets the cut heal from the bottom up. Your doctor may have given you a vacuum device to take home that helps close the cut.

A cut may be left open when it is infected or likely to become infected. This is because closing the cut may make an existing infection worse and a new infection more likely.

You will have a bandage.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • You may shower with soap and water. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to use a bathtub or go swimming.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your cut, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the cut with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • Avoid any activity that could cause your cut to get worse. For example, if your cut is in the belly, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
  • 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 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 cut is packed (gauze is put into the cut), follow your doctor's instructions on how often and how to repack the cut. A home health worker may do this for you and may teach you how to do it.

When should you call for help?

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

  • The cut gets bigger.
  • You can see organs through the open cut.
  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • The cut starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • The skin near the cut is cold or pale or changes colour.
  • You have trouble moving the area near the cut.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the cut.
    • Red streaks leading from the cut.
    • Pus draining from the cut.
    • A fever.

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

  • You can't pack the cut as you were instructed.
  • The cut is not closing (getting smaller).
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.