An incision is a cut through the skin made during surgery. It is also called a "surgical wound." Some incisions are small. Others are very long. The size of an incision depends on the kind of surgery you had.
To close your incision, your doctor used one of the following:
- Stitches (sutures)
- Skin glue
Proper wound care can help prevent infection and reduce scarring as your surgical wound heals.
Caring for your Wound
When you come home after surgery, you may have a dressing on your wound. Dressings do several things, including:
- Protect your wound from germs
- Reduce the risk of infection
- Cover your wound so that stitches or staples do not catch on clothing
- Protect the area as it heals
- Soak up any fluids that leak from your wound
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.
DO NOT wear tight clothing that rubs against the incision while it is healing.
Your health care provider will tell you how often to change your dressing. Your provider likely gave you specific instructions on how to change the dressing. The steps outlined below will help you remember.
- Clean your hands before touching the dressing. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Also clean under your nails. Rinse, then dry your hands with a clean towel .
- Make sure you have all the supplies handy.
- Have a clean work surface.
Remove the old dressing.
- Put on clean medical gloves if your wound is infected (red or oozing), or if you are changing the dressing for someone else. The gloves do not need to be sterile.
- Carefully loosen the tape from the skin.
- If the dressing sticks to the wound, moisten it gently with water and try again, unless your doctor instructed you to pull it off dry.
- Put the old dressing in a plastic bag and set it aside.
- Remove the gloves if you had them on. Throw them in the same plastic bag as the old dressing.
- Wash your hands again.
When you put on a new dressing:
- Make sure your hands are clean. Put on clean gloves if your own wound is infected, or if you are putting on dressing for someone else.
- DO NOT touch the inside of the dressing.
- DO NOT apply antibiotic cream unless your doctor tells you to.
- Place the dressing over the wound and tape down all 4 sides.
- Put the old dressing, tape, and other trash in the plastic bag. Seal the bag and throw it away.
If you have non-dissolvable stitches or staples, the provider will remove them within 3 to 21 days. DO NOT pull at your stitches or try to remove them on your own.