General Incision & Suture Lines
Incisions and suture lines are a necessary part of surgery. These lines take many months to fully heal. Part of the healing process requires proper cleansing and care. There is no guarantee as to what a scar will look like once it has fully healed. However, the following instructions are important to achieving optimal outcomes.
- If you have a dressing, keep the clear plastic film or gauze that covers your incision on for 48 hours. If you have a clear plastic film dressing, you may shower right away. Otherwise, keep the dressing clean and dry for 48 hours.
- If you have surgical tape under your dressing, leave it in place, no other care is needed. If you have sutures, apply bacitracin antibiotic ointment twice daily.
- Showering (not bathing) is fine for all incisions 48 hours after surgery, unless otherwise instructed.
- Do not immerse the wound in water (swim, ocean, bath, dish washing, etc.) until at least 14 days after your surgery.
- Direct trauma and physical stress may result in a separation of the suture edges or a wider scar.
Depending on where your sutures are, they may be removed as early as 5 – 7 days (face) after surgery, or as long as 2 weeks (hand and extremities) after surgery. Alternatively, they may be internal, dissolvable sutures. Once your incisions have healed, applying a simple skin moisturizer is recommended. This aids in softening the scar and may alleviate any itching in the surgically treated area. Good choices include fragrance-free moisturizers like Eucerin®, aloe vera, and Vaseline®. Vitamin E oil is acceptable, although about 15 percent of people experience a local allergic reaction.
Scars take from 8 – 12 months to assume their permanent appearance. In the 12 months following surgery, you must wear a water-proof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 at all times when in the sun, or wear protective clothing. New scars are very sensitive to sunlight and sun damage may result in permanent changes in scar color or quality. Scar massage is an important component of long-term care and is usually started two weeks after surgery.
Rarely, a scar will take on a nodular, bumpy, raised or thickened appearance; the scar formation may be hypertrophic or keloid. If this should happen, please contact our office. There are treatments that may be effective to flatten and improve the scar as it is forming. There is no reliable evidence that starting scar treatments will make what would have been a normal scar “heal better.” Therefore, these treatments are recommended for patients with a history of problem scars or for those who are developing a problem. However, if you wish to treat your scar we would recommend ScarGuard® or ScarFade®, topical treatments.
Do not resume or begin smoking (or using other nicotine products) after surgery. This can reduce the oxygen in your blood and greatly impact your ability to heal. While it is advised for your overall health that you quit smoking entirely, it is imperative that you do not smoke whatsoever until your incisions have fully healed.