After a skin biopsy or surgery, we recommend that you care for your wounds by following these steps:
- Leave bandages in place for approximately 24 hours. During this time, avoid unnecessary movement of the area or exercise or alcohol, as these all increase your risk of bleeding.
- Remove the dressing after 24 hours, and clean the area gently with soap and water. Use your fingers to gently remove any crust that has formed. Do not vigorously scrub the wound or disturb sutures, if present.
- Apply a thin film of plain petroleum jelly (Vaseline® jelly) and re-cover with a non-adherent bandage.
- Repeat steps 2-4 daily until you return for suture removal. If there are no sutures, continue this wound care until the area is completely healed.
Frequently asked questions
What happens if I start bleeding?A small amount of bleeding in the first several days is normal and no cause for concern. If there is persistent bleeding, you should apply firm pressure with a clean gauze or rag over the existing bandage for 20 minutes without peaking. If oozing continues, repeat firm pressure for another 20 minutes. If oozing continues, please call us for help. For rapid bleeding, apply firm pressure and call right away or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
What about infection?Infection is an uncommon but unfortunate complication from surgery. Good post-operative wound care is the most important thing you can do to prevent infection. It is normal for wounds to be slightly red, especially around sutures, have a small amount of clear to blood-tinged discharge, and be minimally tender during the immediate post-operative period. Increasing redness or red streaks extending from the wound, blisters, copious discharge or yellow-green discharge, increasing (rather than decreasing) tenderness, and fever are all signs of infection, and if present, please notify us at once. Note that we discourage use of antibiotic ointments in most instances, because well-conducted studies show they do not decrease the incidence of wound infections but do increase the risk of acquired contact allergies when uniformly used.
What can I take for pain relief?Most people do not need oral pain medicines after skin surgery. However, if you desire a medicine for pain control, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can be taken. Please avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (for example, ibuprofen or naproxen), since these can increase the risk of bleeding.
What happens if I break my stitches?You should do everything possible to prevent this from happening. Decrease your level of activity and avoid strenuous exercise to prevent stress on the sutures and your healing wound. If your sutures break or come loose, please call us right away. Occasionally they can be replaced. If not, most wounds heal adequately despite the assistance of sutures, although this may result in a slightly larger scar.
When can I get the area wet?Keep your bandage dry until the first dressing change, which can be coordinated with a daily shower. Every day the wound should be wet during wound cleaning. However, you should avoid submerging your open or sutured wounds in water (bath tubs, pools, hot tubs, lakes) until fully healed and/or sutures have been removed.
Should I let my wound "air out"?No! The old recommendation of letting wounds "air out" or "breathe" to facilitate faster healing has been disproved. Numerous well-conducted studies have shown that wounds heal faster when they are kept moist and covered. If your wound is located in an area where a bandage is impractical (for example, your scalp or lip), at least wash your wound daily, and please keep it continuously moist with petroleum jelly (this may require regular reapplications throughout the day).
Who do I call if there is a problem?Call our office during business hours. If there is an emergency that occurs after hours or on the weekend and you cannot wait until the next business day, call the same number and you will be directed to the physician on call. After 9 PM, we recommend that you go to your local Emergency Room if your issue is that urgent and you cannot wait until the next day.