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A cut through the skin which is made during surgery is called an incision. Another name for incision is surgical wound. The type of surgery is the most important factor that determines the size, location, and the number of incisions. Sometimes, the incision may break open along a part or its entire length. These opened incisions are closed using sutures (stitches) or a special adhesive tape called Steri-Strips.

Cleaning an Incision

Proper care of incision helps to heal, reduce scarring and reduces the risk of infection. Incisions must be kept clean and dry regularly. The following are the tips for incision care:

  • Wash your hands every time before and after touching the incisions using an alcohol-based cleanser.
  • Check the incisions every day for any signs of infection.
  • If an incision bleeds, cover the incision with a clean tissue or towel and apply constant pressure onthe incision for five minutes. If the bleeding stops, change the dressing and apply a new dressing.
  • Avoid tight clothes that rub on incision.
  • It is normal to feel itchy as the incision heals. If the itchiness gets worse, then it may be a sign of infection or the stitches may be tight.
  • After 24 hours, the incision may be washed unless directed by a physician. Few incisions are covered by dissolvable stitches which often dissolve over a specific period of time. 
  • Tissue glue may also be used to cover the incisions. The glue should be kept dry and incision should be kept out of direct sunlight. The glue dries on its own and falls off after 5 to 10days. 

Signs of Infection at Incisional Site

The various signs that indicate infection at the incision site are as follows:

  • Yellow or green discharge
  • Change in odor
  • Change in size
  • Redness or hardening
  • Unusual pain
  • Excessive bleeding

Risk Factors for Developing an Infection at the incisional site:

The following conditions may increase the likelihood of anindividual to develop infection at the incisional site:

  • Diabetes
  • History of smoking
  • Excessive weight
  • Poor nutrition
  • Weak immune system
  • Recent emergency surgery

Dressing of Incision and Its Supplies

Dressing is a sterile covering of a wound or incision which protects it from infectious organisms and keeps it clean and dry. Dressings should ideally be changed regularly or as directed by a physician. The basic supplies required for changing the dressings are:

  • Gauze pads
  • Disposable medical gloves
  • Surgical tape
  • Plastic bag
  • Scissors

Steps involved in Changing Dressings:

The first step in dressing is to prepare the area where the dressing has to be applied or changed.   The steps involve removing the old dressing, cleansing and the incision and applying the new dressing.

  • First, you or the caregiver who ischanging the dressing should lay out the supplies needed for dressing. These supplies must be cleaned and placed on a paper towel or cloth.
  • The gauze pads and new strips should be set aside before removing the old dressing. Before removing, you should wear gloves. You should now loosen the tape holding the old dressing and then remove it.
  • Now, clean the incision with a gauze soaked in saline solution and gently pat on the incision and the area around it with a damp linen.
  • Use a damp cloth to remove the dried blood and drainage from the skin near the incision. Then pat it dry using a dry, soft cloth or gauze before applying a new dressing.
  • If an antibiotic ointment is prescribed, then apply the ointment on the incision. Take a sterile gauze pad and place it on the incision. Now, tape the gauze pad on all the four corners.
  • Remove the medical gloves and all the trash into a plastic bag and add them to a trash bag.
  • Finally, wash your hands properly and wash any soiled laundry separately.

Healing of Incision

Good incision care helps to ensure that it heals well and doesn’t develop an infection. In most cases, the surgical incision heals in about two weeks. In complex cases, surgical incisions may take a longer time to heal. In patients with underlying medical conditions or who are taking any medications that hinder the healing process, the incision may take extra time to heal.

Staying active improves blood flow and aids healing. However, in certain surgeries, a physician may recommend avoiding exercise, pulling, lifting, or sports for about one month after the surgery. These will help prevent opening of the incision line and promote healing.<


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