Discharge Instructions: Changing Your Dressing
You are going home with stitches (sutures), surgical staples, special strips of tape called Steri-Strips, or surgical skin glue. These items were used to close your incision, help stop bleeding, and speed healing. Follow the tips on this sheet to help your incision heal.
Care for specific closures
Follow these guidelines unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise:
Sutures or staples. Once you no longer need to keep these dry, clean the wound daily, using the instructions listed above. First remove the bandage using clean hands. Then wash the area gently with soap and warm water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms. After cleaning, put a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on if your healthcare provider instructed you to do so. Then put on a new bandage.
Skin glue. Don’t put liquid, ointment, or cream on your wound while the glue is in place. Avoid activities that cause heavy sweating. Protect the wound from sunlight. Do not scratch, rub, or pick at the glue. Do not put tape directly over the glue. The glue should peel off within 5 to 10 days.
Surgical tape. Keep the area dry. If it gets wet, blot the area dry with a clean towel. Surgical tape usually falls off within 7 to 10 days. If it has not fallen off after 10 days, contact your healthcare provider before taking it off yourself. If you are told to remove the tape, put mineral oil or petroleum jelly on a cotton ball. Gently rub the tape until it is removed.
Follow up with your healthcare provider to ask how long sutures or staples should be left in place. Be sure to return for suture or staple removal as directed. If tape closures were used, remove them yourself when your provider recommends if they have not fallen off on their own. If skin glue was used, the glue will wear off by itself.
When to seek medical care
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:
More pain, bleeding, redness, or foul-smelling discharge around the incision area
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Vomiting or nausea that doesn’t go away
Numbness, coldness, or tingling around the incision area
Opening of the sutures or wound
Stitches or staples come apart or fall out or surgical tape falls off before 7 days, or as directed by your provider
Online Medical Reviewer:
Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Mancini, Mary, MD
Date Last Reviewed:
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