Surgical Wound Care

Surgical Wound Care – A Look at The Wound Healing Process and After-Care at Home

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The largest organ in our body's system is the skin. It serves as the body's first layer of defence against outside attacks such as scratches and burns. When the skin barrier is threatened by a sharp object or any other similar, the second line of defence, our immune system, jumps in to restore the balance and begin the process of healing the wound. The phases of healing are just about the same regardless of the cause of the wound.

Minor cuts and scrapes can be treated with regular plasters for wounds, like if you fall off your bike, but deeper cuts and injuries may necessitate immediate medical attention, and in some cases, surgery. Since small wounds do not require constant attention or extra medical care and heal by themselves, we have become quite used to this automatic wound healing process, but there is a lot more to it than we realize.

Although wound healing may look like a slow process on the outside, in reality, a mass of rapid movement occurs below the surface of the skin. There are four different phases in the process of healing wounds. Whether it is the development of the scab or the regeneration of skin tissue, each phase emphasises a different aspect of healing. To help you better understand the process of wound healing effectively, here's an easy-to-understand elaboration of the four phases:

Phase 1- Homeostasis

Hemostasis, also referred to as the bleeding stage, is the very first stage of the process of healing wounds. During this stage, a blood clot forms. The platelets in our blood rush to the injured area and begin clumping as soon as there is a split inside the epidermis (top layer of the skin). A blood clot forms as even more platelets connect, adequately plugging the wound site and stopping any bleeding. The next phase begins once the bleeding has been stopped.

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Phase 2- Inflammation

You will notice that your skin is starting to swell up all around the wounded region during this defensive stage. There is no need to be disturbed; this is caused by an increased amount of fluid and white blood cells in the wound site, indicating that your body must have started cleaning up the wound and removing any bacteria. The white blood cells go to work, engulfing and attempting to remove any debris that may have managed to enter the wound. This process cleans the wound by ensuring that no detrimental germs or debris remain in the wound area.

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Phase 3- Proliferation

After the WBCs have cleaned up the wound, the formation of new tissue takes place. A fresh network of blood vessels will start to emerge as the wound starts to close up. This network serves as the foundation for the formation of new tissue. The skin will appear to be pink or reddish in colour during this phase of the healing process. Keeping the wound covered and moist can help the epidermal layer regenerate more quickly, which is why using a wound plaster is often advised for quicker healing.

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Phase 4- Maturation

The body cleans up the wound site and gets rid of excess cells during this final stage of the wound healing process. The healing process now comes to an end as the wound will have completely healed and been replaced by new skin.

As mentioned before, minor cuts and scratches do not require medical attention, but deeper cuts and abrasions require surgery. After which, proper after-surgery care at home is required by the individual to protect the surgical wound from re-opening or getting infected.

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Surgical Wounds

A surgical wound is a cut or an incision in the skin, which is typically made during surgery using a scalpel. Surgical wounds are of two types:

  • Incisional wounds are created by the surgeon by cutting through the skin, muscle, and fat to repair or eliminate a part of the body.
  • Excisional wounds are created when a cyst or any other type of tissue is removed

Wound Closures

Dressing: These dressings can aid in the absorption of any leakage from the wound and provide ideal conditions to heal the wound. You can use Hansaplast’s Fixation Tape on the wounded region to firmly secure the dressing, it is suitable for sensitive skin and leaves no sticky residue. 

Stitches: Stitches, also known as sutures, are special threads which are sewn through the skin at the site of the injury to bring a wound together. 

Staples: Medical staples are a tool used by surgeons to bring a wound together. Not to be confused with office staples, these medical staples are made using a different kind of metal.

Tissue Adhesive: Also known as skin adhesives, tissue adhesives are used by surgeons to close wounds, either alone or in combination with stitches.

How to care for your stitches after surgery at home

Surgical wound healing requires appropriate aftercare at home and wound dressing at home. Here’s how you can look after the surgical wounds at home:

  1. After the stitches have been placed, it is important to keep the wound area clean and dry for the first 24 to 48 hours.
  2. After 48 hours of keeping the wound area dry, you can begin to wash the surrounding area of the wound 1 to 2 times every day using cool water and mild soap. Avoid washing or rubbing over the stitches directly.
  3. To dry the wounded region, dab on the site using a clean paper towel. Do not use the towel directly on the wound.
  4. In the case of bandages, you must replace them with new clean first aid bandages or use an antibiotic treatment if instructed by the surgeon.
  5. You must get the stitches removed after a few days, so contact your doctor for an appointment.

A Surgical Site Infection (SSI) is an infection that develops at the site of the surgical wound after surgery. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, infections can only affect the skin, organs, or implanted material if any.

The symptoms of infected wounds can appear as-

  1. Redness or pain around the site of the surgery
  2. The presence of pus
  3. Delay in the healing process
  4. A bad smell or drainage from the wound

Infected wound treatment involves the use of antibiotics in the form of creams or oral supplements depending upon the severity of the wound. In some cases, another surgery may be necessary to get rid of the infection. 

The nurse may clean your wound and also provide a dressing suitable for your wound to cover and protect it from further infection. This will speed up the process of surgical wound healing.

A surgical wound often causes distress, so it is normal for you to be curious about treatment or medicine that heals wounds faster.


Keep moving

The blood circulation increases with movement, which aids in healing. Additionally, walking can prevent the formation of harmful blood clots.

Hydration is the key to healing

Consume non-carbonated, low-calorie beverages as these will not just keep you hydrated but also aid in healing.

Get appropriate wound care

To clean the wound before dressing it, wash it using cool running water and then apply petroleum jelly or an ointment of your choice. According to the size and site of the wound, you must cover the wound using plaster and change it as and when required.

Eat a nutrient-dense diet 

Nutritional supplements and healthy meals can boost your immune system and speed up the healing process.

Quit smoking

If you are a smoker, you must give it up as cigarettes can potentially delay the process of healing wounds, often by tightening the blood vessels and preventing the nutrients from reaching the wound.

Aftercare of surgical wounds, stitches, and staples at home and infected wound treatment becomes essential after the surgery is performed. Taking appropriate after-surgery care of the wound site ensures a faster healing process and aids in keeping infections at bay. Consult your doctor to know more about the appropriate plaster, antibiotics, and medicines that can heal wounds faster or any additional care needed after the surgery.

Disclaimer - Please note that the above recommendations are general care tips. Consult a health care professional in case of any uncertainty around wound treatment and healing.

Always see your doctor if a wound is deep, bleeding profusely or shows signs of infection. For diabetic patients especially, proper wound care holds the utmost importance. Do not hesitate to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor or your podiatrist, even when it comes to minor wounds and cuts – especially if they’re on your feet.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Although compiled with great care, it is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult your doctor immediately. 

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