An incision or surgical wound is a cut in the skin created during surgery. The site, size and number of incisions depend on the type of surgery performed.
Incisions are sealed using staples, stitches, tissue glue or a special form of adhesive tape. Once sealed, a sterile dressing is placed to cover the incision.
How to care for an incision after surgery
An incision should be kept dry and clean. Remember that proper care ensures good healing, reduces scarring and lowers the risk for infection. The instructions given by the doctor should be strictly followed.
Some of the general tips when caring for an incision include:
- Always wash hands thoroughly before and after touching the incision.
- Check the wound daily for any indications of infection.
- In case bleeding occurs, cover the wound with a clean towel or tissue and apply direct pressure for at least 5 minutes. Once bleeding stops, remove the soiled dressing, clean the wound and apply fresh dressing.
- Avoid wearing any constricting or tight clothes that can rub on the wound.
- An incision might feel itchy as it heals which is relatively normal. The area should not be scratched. If the itchiness worsens, consult a doctor since it might be an indication of infection or the stitches are too tight.
- If stitches or staples are used to seal the incision, the individual can shower or wash 24 hours after surgery unless instructed not to do so by the doctor. Clean the site using mild soap with water and lightly pat dry using a clean towel or cloth.
- If Steri-Strips are used, the individual can shower or wash if they are in place. Cleanse the area using water and mild soap and pat dry gently. The strips will fall out on their own within 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, gently remove any leftover strips.
- In case tissue glue is used, it must be kept dry and out of exposure to sunlight. The glue will dry and fall off in 5-10 days.
Indications of a possible infection
- Yellowish or greenish drainage from the wound
- Foul or bad odor from the site
- Opening of the incision where it becomes longer, deeper or wider
- Fever along with chills or sweating
- Redness that radiates beyond the borders of the wound
- Warmth or hardness around the site
- Drastic alterations in the blood sugar levels among diabetics
If any of these indications of an infection are present, it is best to consult a doctor.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on an incision is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this type of wound by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.