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Surgical wound care - open

Surgical incision care; Open wound care

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Proper hand washing

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Description

An incision is a cut through the skin that is made during surgery. It is also called a surgical wound. Some incisions are small, others are long. The size of the incision depends on the kind of surgery you had.

Sometimes, an incision breaks open. This may happen along the entire cut or just part of it. Your doctor may decide not to close it again with sutures (stitches).

What to Expect at Home

If your doctor does not close your wound again with sutures, you need to care for it at home, since it may take time to heal. The wound will heal from the bottom to the top. A dressing helps absorb drainage and keep the skin from closing before the wound underneath fills in.

Proper Handwashing

It is important to clean your hands before you change your dressing. You can use an alcohol-based cleanser. Or, you can wash your hands using these steps:

Removing the Old Dressing

Your health care provider will tell you how often to change your dressing. To prepare for the dressing change:

Remove the old dressing:

Caring for the Wound

You may use a gauze pad or soft cloth to clean the skin around your wound:

Your provider may also ask you to irrigate, or wash out, your wound:

DO NOT put any lotion, cream, or herbal remedies on or around your wound, unless your provider has said it is OK.

Putting on the New Dressing

Place the clean dressing on the wound as your provider taught you to. You may be using a wet-to-dry dressing.

Clean your hands when you are finished.

Throw away the old dressing and other used supplies in a waterproof plastic bag. Close it tightly, then double it before putting it in the trash.

Wash any soiled laundry from the dressing change separately from other laundry. Ask your provider if you need to add bleach to the wash water.

Use a dressing only once. Never reuse it.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:

Related Information

Hysterectomy
Breast lump removal
Mastectomy
Anti-reflux surgery
Intestinal obstruction repair
Meckel diverticulectomy
Gallbladder removal - open
Parathyroid gland removal
Thyroid gland removal
Tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia repair
Umbilical hernia repair
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia repair
Omphalocele repair
Large bowel resection
Small bowel resection
Spleen removal
Heart bypass surgery
Congenital heart defect - corrective surgery
Pectus excavatum repair
Carotid artery surgery
Varicose vein stripping
Angioplasty and stent placement - carotid artery
Lung surgery
Bunion removal
Clubfoot repair
Spinal fusion
Knee arthroscopy
Knee joint replacement
Hip joint replacement
Carpal tunnel release
Abdominal wall surgery
Skin graft
Breast augmentation surgery
Patent urachus repair
Testicular torsion repair
Transurethral resection of the prostate
Bladder exstrophy repair
Hypospadias repair
Kidney removal
Ventriculoperitoneal shunting
Meningocele repair
Heart bypass surgery - minimally invasive
Gastric bypass surgery
Shoulder arthroscopy
ACL reconstruction
Diskectomy
Ankle replacement
Knee microfracture surgery
Elbow replacement
Ventricular assist device
Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy
Radical prostatectomy
Pediatric heart surgery
Leg or foot amputation
Heart pacemaker
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
Gallbladder removal - laparoscopic
Foot amputation - discharge
Leg amputation - discharge
Pediatric heart surgery - discharge
Leg or foot amputation - dressing change
Hemovac drain
Closed suction drain with bulb
Lymphedema - self-care
Phantom limb pain
Tracheostomy care
Heart pacemaker - discharge
Heart bypass surgery - discharge
Sterile technique
Ventriculoperitoneal shunt - discharge
Large bowel resection - discharge
Small bowel resection - discharge
Total colectomy or proctocolectomy - discharge
Central venous catheter - dressing change
Central venous catheter - flushing
Peripherally inserted central catheter - flushing
Ankle replacement - discharge
Elbow replacement - discharge
Knee arthroscopy - discharge
Spleen removal - child - discharge
Laparoscopic spleen removal in adults - discharge
Open spleen removal in adults - discharge
Thyroid gland removal - discharge
Kidney removal - discharge
Wet-to-dry dressing changes

References

Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M. Wound care and dressings. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 25.

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Review Date: 1/7/2018  

Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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