Wound care after surgery

February 16, 2024 Post-Hospital Care

Wound care after surgery

After undergoing surgery, proper wound care is essential for a smooth and speedy recovery. Whether it is a minor or a major operation, taking care of a wound is crucial to prevent infection, promote healing, and minimize scarring. It is important to follow the individual advice given after an operation or procedure.

This comprehensive guide provides valuable insights and practical tips for effectively managing wound care after surgery.

What is a surgical wound?

A surgical wound is a cut made to the skin and tissues during an operation. After surgery, the surgeon typically closes the wound using stitches, staples, adhesive strips, or skin glue, depending on factors like location and size. In some cases, the wound may be left open to heal naturally. Surgeons may also insert a temporary surgical drain to prevent fluid buildup, which requires proper care and may be removed at the hospital or later at home.

How often should a dressing be changed?

The doctor or nurse will give exact instructions on when and how to change the dressing. Most wounds don’t need a dressing after a few days. However, if the area is kept covered, it may protect the wound from other injuries and may heal faster. However, if a dressing is kept on, ensure that it is changed every day. It is also important to keep the wound dry; if the dressing becomes damp from blood or any other fluid, it should be replaced.

How should a dressing be changed?

Before changing the dressing, ensure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Gently remove the soiled dressing, being cautious not to touch the healing wound with bare hands. If the wound is progressing well, it can be left uncovered; however, some individuals may opt for a dressing for added protection, especially if there’s a risk of clothing rubbing against it. Replacement dressings may be provided for home use, and when applying them, care should be taken to avoid touching the inner surface to maintain cleanliness.

Problems with wound healing

Doctors and nurses will do everything that they can to prevent wounds from becoming infected whilst in hospital, but it is important that to know how to tell if it is are developing an infection after discharge. If a wound becomes infected it may:

  • become more painful
  • look red or swollen
  • weep or leak some blood-like fluid, pus or blood
  • have an unpleasant smell

When should a doctor be called?

Call if see any signs that an infection if forming on or around your wound. Some things to watch out for:

  • Pain that gets worse
  • Redness or swelling
  • Bleeding or oozing pus
  • Increasing drainage from the wound (may become thick, tan, green, or yellow)
  • A bad smell
  • Wound looks larger, deeper, dried out, or dark.
  • A high temperature

Other practical tips for wound care

  • Follow post-operative instructions: Adhere to the specific instructions provided regarding wound care, medications, activity restrictions, and follow-up appointments.
  • Keep the incision site dry: Avoid exposing the incision site to excessive moisture, including water from bathing or swimming, until it has fully healed, and the sutures or staples have been removed. Keeping the wound clean and dry is crucial, and showering is usually permitted around 48 hours after surgery, though individual circumstances may vary.
  • Change dressings as directed: If dressings are applied, follow the recommended schedule for changing them. Use sterile techniques and clean hands when handling dressings to prevent contamination.
  • Protect the wound: Avoid activities that could put strain or pressure on the incision site, such as lifting heavy objects or wearing tight clothing that rubs against the area.
  • Promote circulation: Engage in light activities such as walking to promote blood flow and prevent complications such as blood clots. However, avoid activities that cause excessive sweating or strain on the wound.
  • Attend follow-up appointments: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments with to monitor the healing progress and address any concerns or complications promptly.

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

At Cavendish Homecare, we provide post-operative care utilising the clinical skills and experience of registered nurses and carers. If you are looking for post-operative care at home please call our Homecare team to see how we can assist your recovery. Our registered nurses are able to personalise your care to suit your individual needs during your convalescence.

If you would like to enquire about our post-operative care, contact us on, 02030085210 or email us at info@cavendishhomecare.com.

About the Author…

Zahrah Abdullah

Operations Assistant

During her time as a Youth Worker at Challengers, a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people with disabilities, Zahrah demonstrated excellence in assisting in the delivery of inclusive play activities. She gained knowledge in Makaton, and underwent training in Crisis Prevention/Intervention, specifically focusing on managing challenging verbal and physical behaviours.

Currently holding a key role within Cavendish Homecare’s operations team, Zahrah takes charge of ensuring the seamless set up of new cases, managing the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to clients and the nursing and carer teams, organising staff training and providing crucial support to Nurse Managers.

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