After surgery, you will need to
take care of the incision as it heals. Doing so may limit scarring, may help you avoid pain or discomfort, and may help lower the risk of problems like infection.
Your doctor used either stitches,
staples, tissue glue, or tape strips to close the incision. And you will need to keep the
area clean, change the dressing according to your doctor's instructions, and
watch for signs of infection.
Tips for reducing the risk of infection
the risk of infection:
Ask your doctor how long you need to keep the area dry. Follow
your doctor's instructions exactly.
Look at the incision every
day, checking for signs of infection (see below).
dressing as your doctor recommends.
Scrub or rub incisions.
the tape strips (such as Steri-Strips) from incisions unless your doctor tells
Use lotion or powder on incisions.
incisions to sunlight.
Take a bath unless you can keep the incision
dry. Instead, take showers or sponge baths until your doctor says it's okay to take baths. Before you
shower, cover the dressing with a plastic bag or use another method of keeping
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 no cause for concern.
Signs of infection
Call your doctor if you notice signs of an infection, such as:
Clean the incision if your doctor told you to do so. (See instructions below.)
incision for signs of infection.
Hold a clean, sterile gauze pad by
the corner and place over the incision.
Tape all four sides of the
Put all trash in a plastic bag. Remove your gloves last.
Seal plastic bag and throw it away.
Cleaning an incision
To clean the incision:
Gently wash it with soap and water to remove
Do not scrub or soak the wound.
Do not use
rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine, which can harm
the tissue and slow wound healing.
Air-dry the incision or pat it
dry with a clean, fresh towel before reapplying the dressing.
Caring for stitches, staples, tissue glue, or adhesive strips
Stitches or staples normally cause some redness and swelling where the
stitch enters the skin, along with mild irritation and itching. Some drainage
from the incision may be expected for the first few days after surgery. But if
the discharge does not decrease after a few days, becomes bright red with
blood, or contains pus, contact your doctor.
The incisions may be
protected with tissue glue or small adhesive strips (such as Steri-Strips) instead of a
dressing or 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 or fall off on their own.
Other incision care tips
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 suspect you may have an infection, call your
doctor as soon as possible.
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. Bad scarring could occur if you get sunburn on this new skin.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.