Patient Instructions: Taking care of your wounds

CLEAN AND DRY. Wounds heal best if they are kept clean and dry. It is normal for wounds to drain fluid for a few days after surgery - bandages soak this up. Once wounds are dry, they only need bandaging to protect stitches from catching on sheets or clothing. It is now safe to get your wounds and stitches wet briefly for cleansing - but avoid soaking them unless told to do so.

MOISTURIZING. 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.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD DRESSINGS BE CHANGED? Once the initial bandage is removed, dressings should be changed as often as needed to keep wound drainage from soaking the gauze. This is usually one to four times a day. If you find that the bandage is wet with drainage when you change it, then change it more often. Soiled dressings should be changed.

INFECTION should be suspected if there is redness, pain or swelling that gets worse over the course of the day or night, despite elevating the hand. Infection is uncommon less than four days after surgery or more than two weeks after surgery. Drainage from the wound does not necessarily mean that there is infection. Please contact me if you have any question about infection.