Clean a Post-Surgical Wound at Home

Edited by Olivia, Eng, Lynn, Robbi and 2 others

Surgical wound dressing.jpg

Upon discharge from a hospital, you or a loved one may have a surgical wound called an incision. This incision needs to be cleaned and dressed every day to promote healing and prevent infection.

Dressing and cleaning the wound will also provide the opportunity to assess the development of the wound - whether it's healing or infected or worse, the wound could become dehiscent.

Healing a Post-Surgical Wound at Home

Not all surgical wounds are cleansed and dressed as in the mentioned steps above. There are some surgical wounds that that require attention from people with special training, instructions and materials. It is highly recommended that post-surgical wounds be dressed and cleansed according to proper instruction from a health care professional.

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The Stages involved in the Wound-Healing Process

  1. 1
    When the skin is open, it triggers a response to the brain to activate the cells near the wound. This is marked by an increased blood flow to the area. You will notice the site of your surgical procedure is painful and red. After this accumulation of blood flow to the area, proliferation ensues.
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  2. 2
    Happens when the cells starts engulfing bacteria in the wound in order to generate new tissue. This is a complex process that can be observed by the wound starting to form scabs and feeling tight. The cells "proliferate" the wound in order to cover and produce new tissue.
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  3. 3
    Wound Maturation
    Eng-Wound maturation.jpg
    The cells that proliferated the wounded tissue start to mature, assuming the character and strength of the surrounding tissue. The whole process, from inflammation to maturation will take anywhere from 10 days to one year, depending on the complexity of the wound and the person's overall state of health.
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Things You'll Need

Seeing the stitches may make you a bit wary of touching it, and more so of cleaning it. A nurse or a doctor can show you how to clean it before you are discharged, but you may not be up to the task of doing it. Unless you have someone there who'll do it for you, you need to get over your squeamishness, and do it. Your wellness relies upon it.

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Materials needed in dressing a surgical wound.jpg

Arrange and prepare the following materials you'll need to treat your wound at home.

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Basin
  • Gloves
  • Cotton soaked in sterile water or cooled boiled water
  • Syringe without the needle
  • Sterile forceps or tweezers. To sterilize forceps or tweezers, bring a small amount of water in a pan to boil. Soak the forceps or tweezers in the water right after boiling. Carefully remove the instruments and place them on a clean, dry cloth.
  • A cotton swab, soaked in povidone solution, antibacterial, or a solution prescribed by your physician.
  • Dry gauze
  • Adhesive plaster
  • Trash bin or a Trash bag
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Steps to Cleaning and Dressing a Surgical Wound

  1. 1
    Wash your hands
    Remove all jewellery from your hands then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Take time to clean in between the fingers and the nails to ensure that you will not be introducing microorganisms to the instruments that you will be holding while dressing the person's wound.
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  2. 2
    Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer
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  3. 3
    Put on the gloves to protect you, and the person with the wound from you when you handle the soiled wound dressing.
    Wear gloves.jpg
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  4. 4
    The old wound dressing may be secured with adhesive tape
    If you haven't been advised not to get the wound wet, apply a sterile-water soaked cotton ball to the tape, or stuck gauze. This will help loosen the tape adhesive from the skin.
    Adhered dressing.jpg
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  5. 5
    Very carefully remove the old dressing from the wound
    If scab formation is already in process, do not try to remove the scab forcefully. You may also see the old dressing adhere to the wound because of dried drainage. Do not pull the dressing. Instead, get the syringe without the needle, and fill with sterile water. Direct the syringe with water to the wound where the dressing is adhered to the wound because of dried drainage. Push the plunger to release the water onto the wound to help loosen the dressing. Continue until the old dressing falls off.
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  6. 6
    When you've removed the old dressing, inspect the wound for pus and unpleasant discharge
    If the wound has pus or drainage, drain the pus first, using a dry cotton ball or gauze. If the wound seems to have opened up rather than begun healing, notify the physician immediately.
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  7. 7
    After the pus or other drainage has been dried, clean the wound using cotton soaked in sterile water or cooled boiled water
    If you do not have gloves, use the sterile forceps or tweezers. Clean the wound using the inner-to-outer principle, or from the cleanest to the dirtiest part.
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  8. 8
    Afterwards, apply a povidone-iodine-soaked cotton or antibacterial to the wound
    Let it dry for five or ten minutes before finally covering the surgical wound with dry gauze. Secure the gauze with adhesive dressing tapes.
    Apply betadine solution.jpg
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  9. 9
    Dispose of the soiled dressings in an appropriately labeled trash bin or bag
    Seal and dispose of properly to avoid transmission of infection.
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One of the most dangerous complications of a healing would is sepsis. Sepsis occurs when in order to fight the infection, the body releases chemicals. These chemicals get into the bloodstream and cause a dangerous inflammatory response throughout the entire body. With that in mind, it's essential to keep an eye open for the signs of sepsis.

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Signs of Sepsis Include

  • Confirmed infection
  • Abnormal temperature (below 96.8° or above 101° Fahrenheit).
  • Increased heart rate exceeding 90 beats per minute
  • Rapid breathing (more than 20 breaths per minute)


Kid's Health MedLine Plus

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Article Info

Categories : Health & Wellness

Recent edits by: Doug Collins, Robbi, Lynn

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