Caring for Your Incision
After surgery, you may be sent home with a dressing over your incision and may have steri-strips to keep it clean and dry. You may also have a tube or drain in place. Most are easy to care for. The golden rule for wound care is cleanliness. Remember that any time you touch your wound or handle dressings, your hands should be clean. This means rubbing them together with soap for about 20 seconds and rinsing with warm water. Using antibacterial soap is a plus. Any time you remove a dressing, the replacement should be a clean, new piece or wrap. Never reuse old gauze.
Dressings are usually left untouched for 24-48 hours and during that time you should not shower or bathe. After that period of time you may remove the outer dressing, leaving the steri-strips in place. You will then be able to shower with the steri-strips still on, but continue not to bathe (we don’t want the wound entirely submerged in water for any period of time). The strips will likely stay on until you are seen by your doctor for a follow-up visit.
If you have a tube or drain in place, keep it clean and dry. If a tube comes out, don’t panic and don’t try to replace it, but do call your surgeon.
A slightly red, swollen incision is ok – so is some bleeding or discharge. But, if redness, bleeding, pain or swelling increases, if the incision smells bad or is warm to the touch, you may have an infection. If you notice any of these signs, gently press a clean dressing or cloth against your incision and call your surgeon. Also, fever can signal infection, so take your temperature twice a day. Call your surgeon if your temperature stays about 101◦ F. Call the surgeon if you have numbness or your fingers or toes look bluish. Learn more about when to call us.