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After Surgery: Wound Care What You Need to Know with Giselle Grimes

At Memorial Hospital of Converse County, we strive to deliver excellent care with compassion. And when our patients arrive and receive a surgery we work to make sure that all elements of that surgery are to the highest standards. But when it comes time to discharge a patient a lot of the work of keeping a wound clean and free from infection… that responsibility now transfers to the patient and their at home caregivers or support.

We wanted to extend some helpful information and advice from our own infectious disease specialist Giselle Grimes, R.N. on what happens to the body after a surgery, why we need time to heal, and why taking care of the surgical wound or incision area is crucial to your full recovery!

What happens to the body after a surgery?

First, remember you've had anesthesia – which sometimes causes nausea and lightheadedness. The nurses can give you something for nausea, so let them know.

Second, you've had an incision. This is painful. Take pain medication only as prescribed and do not share your pain medication with anyone.

Third at discharge, remember, your body has been through a lot. You need to rest when you get home, take it easy, but don't become a couch potato. Get up and move. You don't have to exercise rigorously – walk around the room every so often. Have someone available to help until you feel safe when walking. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat healthily. Protein (cheese, meat, eggs, legumes) helps wounds heal. Vitamins and mineral from fruits and vegetables also aid your body in the healing process.

When and how do most people return home after surgeries are completed?

This depends on the type of surgery. People who have major trauma, hip replacement, heart surgery, etc stay in the hospital a lot longer than people who have Outpatient surgery, ie eye surgery, D&C, Hysterectomy, Gall bladder surgery, Lap Appendectomies etc. Outpatient surgery vs Inpatient surgery has changed a lot in the last 20 years. People just aren't staying in the hospital for long periods.

To return home it's important to have someone drive you home as you have received a lot of medication that makes you drowsy.

With regards to wounds, why is taking care of your wound so very important?

Most surgical wounds heal without any problems. Infection is the major reason to take care of your wound after surgery. An infected wound takes longer to heal. Usually, you will be treated with antibiotics, occasionally you may need to have further surgery. You are more likely to develop an infection if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Have conditions that affect your immune system, ie leukemia
  • Are receiving chemotherapy

What are some ways the hospital helps patients in order to assist them in their wound care?

Education regarding wound care begins during you doctors visit. Write down pertinent questions to ask your caregiver about your upcoming surgery. When you get into the office, you will likely forget important to you questions, so please get your list out and ask away. Before and after surgery you will receive education/packet about wound care.

Some wound care guidelines:

Wear loose clothing around your surgical area.

  • Don't pick at your bandage
  • Wash your hands before touching your incision
  • Keep Dressing dry
  • If you don't have a dressing you may shower. You don't need to scrub your incision, just let the water run over it. Pat dry.
  • Do not soak in the tub or go swimming until cleared by your doctor.
  • Keep all Post Op Appointments

Okay, so a wound has become infected? Now, what do you do?

A surgical wound can develop in infection 2-3 days after surgery, but may also occur up to 2-3 weeks after surgery. If you have any of these symptoms speak to your Doctor or their Office Nurse. You are also very welcome to come into Urgent Care or the Emergency Room.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Incision becomes more painful
  • Feels tender
  • Looks red, inflamed or swollen
  • Leaks or weeps liquid, pus or blood
  • Smells unpleasant
  • Temperature >100.4F

As your hometown care provider we are here for you while you make decisions regarding your overall health, and when it comes to the decision to pursue surgery we want to see you back on your feet as soon as possible. If you have any questions about a medical procedure or would like to discuss further your medical needs our compassionate and professional staff is here for you and your family.