First Time User? Enroll now.
Find Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Incision Care After Surgery
After surgery, you will need to take care of the incision as it heals. Doing so may limit scarring, may help you avoid pain or discomfort, and may help lower the risk of problems like infection.
Your doctor used either stitches, staples, tissue glue, or tape strips to close the incision. And you will need to keep the area clean, change the dressing according to your doctor's instructions, and watch for signs of infection.
To reduce the risk of infection:
You may notice some soreness, tenderness, tingling, numbness, and itching around the incision. There may also be mild oozing and bruising, and a small lump may form. This is normal and no cause for concern.
Call your doctor if you notice signs of an infection, such as:
Before you start, make sure you have gauze pads, a box of medical gloves, surgical tape, a plastic bag, and scissors. Then:
To clean the incision:
Stitches or staples normally cause some redness and swelling where the stitch enters the skin, along with mild irritation and itching. Some drainage from the incision may be expected for the first few days after surgery. But if the discharge does not decrease after a few days, becomes bright red with blood, or contains pus, contact your doctor.
The incisions may be protected with tissue glue or small adhesive strips (such as Steri-Strips) instead of a dressing or bandage. If glue was used, be sure to dry the incision area right away if it gets wet. The glue will fall off on its own after a bit of time. If adhesive strips were used, leave them in place until they become loose or fall off on their own.
After some surgeries, you may be given special instructions other than these for taking care of the incision. Be sure to follow those instructions carefully. If you are confused by the instructions or you have a question, call your doctor's office. If the office is closed, leave a message with the answering service. If your pain has increased or you suspect you may have an infection, call your doctor as soon as possible.
Don't expose your incision to direct sun for 3 to 9 months after surgery. As an incision heals, the new skin that is formed over the cut is very sensitive to sunlight and will burn more easily than normal skin. Bad scarring could occur if you get sunburn on this new skin.
Other Works Consulted
Frey R (2009). Incision care. In B Narins, ed., Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery and Medical Tests: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers, 2nd ed., vol. 4, pp. 835–838. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
Current as of:
October 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
Current as of: October 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.