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).
- Change the
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:
- A yellow or green discharge that is
- A change in the odor of the discharge.
change in the size of the incision.
- Redness or hardening of the
- The incision is hot to the
- Increasing or
- Excessive bleeding that has soaked through the
Changing a dressing
Before you start, make sure
you have gauze pads, a box of medical gloves, surgical tape, a plastic bag, and
- Prepare supplies by opening the gauze
packages and cutting new tape strips.
- Put on medical
- Loosen the tape around the old dressing.
the old dressing.
- Remove the gloves. At this point, clean the incision if your doctor told you to do so. (See instructions below.)
- Wash your
hands, and put on another pair of medical gloves.
- Inspect the
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, including
gloves, in a plastic bag.
- Seal plastic bag and throw it away.
- Wash your
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