After-Surgery Care

After-Surgery Care May 1, 2020 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

For patients who undergo skin cancer removal surgery, after-surgery care is essential for healing. Patients must follow wound care instructions to prevent infections or other complications. Compliance with after surgery care is also vital to minimize discomfort and avoid as much scarring as possible. 

Prevention of Discomfort With Medication

If the doctor didn’t prescribe pain medication, taking acetaminophen is an acceptable way of managing discomfort. It is crucial to think ahead when managing pain, and to take medicine before the pain becomes too overwhelming. It’s best to avoid ibuprofen or aspirin, as they can cause the blood to thin.  

Avoiding Exercise After Surgery 

Ideally, patients clear the day of surgery to account for rest. While many patients can return to everyday life the day after surgery, it is best to take a day or two to relax. Patients will want to avoid strenuous work, bending over, and exercise for several days after surgery to allow healing and prevent damage to stitches. Stitches might become damaged due to the strain involved with exercise. Stretched out sutures result in damage to the wound area and hold up healing.If the surgical site is on the upper body, light activity will not damage the stitches or interrupt the healing process. If the surgery is to a lower part of the body, light exercise, such as walking, is still reasonable. However, elevating the extremity whenever possible will aid in the healing process.  

Taking Care of Surgical Area

There are steps to take that minimize disruptions to the healing process. Optimal healing leads to less scarring and allows patients to get back to regular life quickly. Some patients experience swelling and bruising, especially if the surgical site is on the face. Ice packs for 20 minutes at a time will help reduce swelling and the appearance of bruising. Excessive bleeding rarely happens, and the pressure bandage used over the wound is designed to absorb normal seepage. In the event of bleeding, add pressure to the site for 20 minutes. If the pressure fails to stop the bleeding, call your doctor.  Most patients may remove their bandage the next day to shower. The sutures can become wet, but the direct spray of water on the surgical site is not recommended. Wash with a mild soap, dry the area thoroughly, and apply Neosporin or Vaseline to the area. The addition of the lubricant moisturizes the wound and helps it heal faster with less scarring. Wound infection rarely occurs, and redness is a normal part of healing. However, if the surgery site is unusually red, swollen and tender, or begins to drain, three to five days post-surgery, please call your doctor immediately.  

Keeping Up Bandage Care

Some patients experience a heavy pressure sensation at the surgery site. This feeling is because there is a pressure dressing over the wound. The pressure bandage keeps the wound clean, and it also helps absorb any drainage from the surgical site. Often a doctor will add a piece of gauze coated with an emulsion that prevents the pressure bandage from sticking and adds extra protection to the wound. The pressure bandage might feel awkward, but do not remove it until advised by your doctor. 

After Suture Removal

Suture removal happens within two weeks of surgery. Afterward, it is recommended that patients follow best practices for caring for both their skin and the surgical site. Sunscreen is essential to prevent further damage from the sun, and tanning beds should be avoided. Also, the sun causes the new skin of the scars to darken faster than the areas around the surgical site.  After-surgery care can minimize discomfort and prevent scarring if done properly. At Complete Family Dermatology, Dr. Geoff Basler and Brent Behrens, PA-C make sure each patient has all the information they need to follow wound care instructions to prevent infections or other complications post-surgery.

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