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HealthInfo Canterbury

Looking after your skin surgery wound

A skin surgery wound is the cut made into your skin by a doctor during an operation or procedure.

There are a number of things you can do to look after your wound, lower your risk of infection and encourage healing.

Stitches, staples and clips

Wounds are closed with stitches (sometimes called sutures), metal clips, staples or glue. What's used will depend on the type of surgery, the type of wound, and the area of your body.

Dressings

A dressing protects the wound until it has healed and stops any stitches or clips from catching on your clothing. It also provides ideal conditions for healing and absorbs any leakage. Not all wounds need dressings.

You'll be told If your wound needs any further dressings. It's important that you don't remove your dressing unless you're told to.

Pain relief

If you've had a local anaesthetic, the effects will wear off after two to four hours. You may need some pain relief. You can use the tablets that have been prescribed or you can take paracetamol.

Don't take aspirin for pain as it can cause bleeding in some people. But if you normally take an aspirin a day, don't stop unless your doctor tells you to.

Swelling

Some swelling is normal. If your wound seems very swollen or the swelling is getting worse or causing problems, contact the surgery or clinic where you had your operation or procedure. It it's outside their opening hours, contact an after-hours service.

Bleeding

If your wound bleeds, press a clean cloth on the area for 15 minutes. Slowly release the pressure to check if the bleeding has stopped. If it keeps bleeding, reapply firm pressure. If it doesn't stop bleeding, contact the surgery or clinic where you had your operation or procedure. It it's outside their opening hours, contact an after-hours service.

Wound coming apart

Occasionally, the stitch line will break open. If this happens, don't be alarmed as it's quite easy to fix. Press a clean cloth over the wound and contact the surgery or clinic where you had your operation or procedure.

The wound may need stitching again, or you may be told to let it heal without stitches. You don't need to go to an after-hours service if you can see your own doctor within 24 hours.

Wound healing

You'll see changes in the wound as it heals. It's normal to experience some of the following:

Don't pick off any scabs, as they protect the new tissue under the wound and act as nature's dressing. They'll fall off on their own.

Problems with wound healing

Most wounds heal without any problems. There's a higher risk of developing wound infections if you smoke, have diabetes, a poor immune system or you've had a major operation such as bowel surgery.

Important

Contact your doctor or an after-hours service straight away if you develop a fever, feel unwell or your wound:

Contact your doctor within 24 hours if your wound:

When the wound has healed

Gently massage a skin softening cream (called an emollient) or vitamin cream on the healed area to help keep it soft and supple. It's important to protect the healed area from the sun.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2017. Last updated December 2020.

Page reference: 160980

Review key: HISKW-128569