An incision is a cut through the skin made during surgery. It's also called a "surgical wound." Some incisions are small. Others are very long. The size of an incisions depend on the kind of surgery you had.
Closing a surgical wound can help your wound heal faster. To close your incision, your doctor used one of the following:
Proper wound care can help prevent infection and reduce scarring as your surgical wound heals.
Surgical incision care; Closed wound care
When you come home after surgery, you may have a dressing on your wound. Dressings do several things, including:
You can leave your original dressing in place for up to 5 days, or as long as your doctor says. You will want to change it sooner if it becomes wet or soaked with blood or other fluids.
Don't wear tight clothing that rubs against the incision while it's healing.
Your doctor will tell you how often to change your dressing. Be prepared before starting the dressing change.
Remove the old dressing.
When you put on a new dressing:
If you have non-dissolvable stitches or staples, your doctor will remove them within 3 to 21 days. Do not pull at your stitches or try to remove them on your own.
Your doctor will let you know when it's OK to bathe after surgery. Usually it's fine to bathe after 48 hours. Keep in mind:
At some point during the healing process, you won't need a dressing anymore. Your doctor will tell you when you can leave your wound uncovered.
Call your doctor if there are any of the following changes around the incision:
You should also call your doctor if the drainage coming from or around the incision increases or becomes thick, tan, green, or yellow, or smells bad (pus).
Also call if your temperature is above 100 °F for more than 4 hours.
Leong M, Phillips LG. Wound Healing. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 7.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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