PATIENT INSTRUCTIONS: TAKING CARE OF YOUR INCISIONS
CLEAN AND DRY
Incisions heal best if they are kept clean and dry. It is not uncommon for surgical incisions to drain clear or blood tinged fluid for a few days after surgery – your bandages are meant to this kind of drainage. Once the incision sites are dry, they should only need bandaging to protect the stitches from catching on sheets or clothing. At 48 hours after surgery, it is generally safe to get your incision and stitches gently wet in the shower for cleansing. Use mild soap and water to cleanse your incision.
Do not soak your incision sites.
That means NO hot tubs, swimming pools, lakes, rivers, or ocean water.
Your doctor will let you know when it is okay to submerge or soak your incision sites and re-enter water environments without restrictions.
Your skin will become dry and may peel after surgery. A thin coat of petrolatum ointment may help make the wound more comfortable and easier to clean. Plain Vaseline ointment is probably best for this – many people develop allergic reactions to medications or perfumes in other moisturizers. Drying medicines, such as mercurochrome, or lotions containing alcohol should not be used. Do not apply rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine solutions to your incision sites.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD DRESSINGS BE CHANGED?
Once the initial bandage is removed, dressings should be changed as often as needed to keep incision area dry. This is usually one to four times a day during the first week. If you find that the bandage is wet with drainage when you change it, then change it more often. Soiled dressings should be changed to a clean one as soon as possible.
Infection should be suspected if there is redness, pain, and/or swelling that gets worse over the course of the day or night. Infection is uncommon less than four days after surgery or more than two weeks after surgery. Clear or blood tinged drainage from the incision does not necessarily mean that there is infection.
If there is frank pus draining from your incision, call our office immediately.
The correct gauze looks like folded cheesecloth. Some gauze has cotton filling, which may irritate your wounds – check to make sure that yours does not. Hold the gauze up to a light – you should be able to see little spots of light through the center of the pad.
Applying petroleum ointments such as Vaseline or Neosporin to your incision, will prevent dryness, itching, and peeling around the incision area. Use a Q-tip to apply a thin layer of ointment over the incision and surrounding skin. Too much ointment will prevent the incision site from “breathing” and will become macerated due to moisture.
Adhesive tape can be irritating. If many bandage changes are anticipated, use paper tape on the bandage or a non-adhesive dressing.
WHITE PATCHES OF SKIN
These areas usually areas that are being kept too moist, which may lead to a rash or infection. This may be due to a bandage which doesn’t breathe enough, wound drainage, or too much ointment. If this occurs, make the dressing thinner, change it more often, and use less ointment.
RED PATCHES OF SKIN
These areas may be where the bandage has been rubbing or too tight. If these areas itch, you may have an allergy to some medicine put on your skin. Contact our office for treatment options.
These areas can be a real problem with recently healed skin. For several months after your incisions have healed, they may be burned easily by strong chemicals or the sun. Avoid sun exposure to the surgical site or use frequent high SPF sunblock on the surgical site for at least six months. Early sun exposure can lead to darker scars.
Lip balm with sunblock is a convenient way to carry around a bit of sun protection for scars.
This should always be suspected if there is redness, pain or swelling that gets worse over the course of the day or night. Infection is uncommon less than four days after surgery or more than two weeks after surgery. Regardless of time frame, please contact the office immediately if you have any concerns about infection.
Do not hesitate to contact the Idaho Shoulder to Hand office if you have questions or concerns about your incision.