After a minor skin surgery
A variety of surgical procedures requires a variety of suturing methods, dressings and postoperative instructions. Each patient and his/her operation is unique and will be managed accordingly. The information below gives an outline of the first few days after surgery. It aims to provide reassurance for understandable anxieties and to answer frequently asked questions.
Soon after the procedure
The local anaesthetic will wear off after about 2–4 hours; if you experience any pain or discomfort following the procedure this may be relieved with a painkiller, e.g. Paracetamol, rather than Aspirin. Keep the wound clean and dry, but if it accidentally gets wet do not worry. Most dressings can be changed at home straight away or will simply dry out together with the wound.
Inevitably there will be some oozing of tissue fluid, slightly bloodstained, from the wound. This is normal and to be expected. Finger pressure over the operated area 15–20 minutes immediately after the procedure prevents imminent discharge and tissue swelling, so all patients are shown how to apply that before leaving the operating theatre.
Some wounds are closed with dissolvable sutures, others with non-absorbable ones. The decision on which to use is based on a variety of facts, but also on patient preference and this will be discussed with you in advance. When closing the wound, personally, I prefer to use the non-absorbable stitch which is interwoven in the deeper layers of the skin (subcuticular stitch), which needs to be removed later, but does not leave any stitch marks durimng healing (Pic 1). The scar corresponding to such closure technique is illustarted in Picture 2.
Sutures on the face most commonly, stay in place for seven days and on the rest of the body for approximately two weeks. Most dissolvable sutures will disappear from the skin surface within the first two weeks after the procedure.
Dressings are designed to contain and absorb a small amount of discharge from a wound. However, if dressings get completely soaked and stop adhering to the skin at any time after surgery, they need to be changed. If you are not comfortable with doing this at home or do not have spare dressings, the nurses in the hospital where your operation took place are always available to help. In most cases the dressings applied in the operating theatre stay on until you are reviewed, either by the nurse in the dressing room, or by the surgeon in the clinic as scheduled. The first layer of dressings consist of a skin coloured surgical tape (Pic 3), which is further covered with a ‘shower proof’, transparent dressing with absorbent pad in the middle (Pic 4).
The time interval for this first review ranges between one and two weeks from the date of the procedure and depends on the exact type of operation and the body site.
If a tissue biopsy is taken, the specimen will be sent to the histology laboratory for processing. You will be informed of the result in about two weeks’ time, at your next outpatients appointment. Any results requiring urgent treatment or attention will be processed faster.
Monitoring the wound
Be aware of the signs of wound infection – redness, inflammation, increased pain, weeping from the wound, a high temperature. This occurs very rarely but needs medical attention.
If you have any concerns following your surgery please contact:
- The hospital where your operation took place:
– Ashtead 01372 221 442; St Anthony’s 020 8337 6691; Parkside 020 8971 8000
- Your GP practice
- Sonja’s secretary on 0845 026 7776 (Monday–Friday, 9.30–18.00).