Surgical wounds – A guide to post-operative wound treatment

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Surgical wounds are incisions performed in a medical setting. They are generally closed with sutures and professionally dressed, but still require the correct aftercare once you leave the hospital.

What are surgical wounds?

Post-operative wounds, also called surgical wounds, occur after an incision performed by medical professionals in a targeted and precise manner under sterile conditions.

They are characterised by regular sharp, clean wound edges and often closed with sutures, glue or staples. In these cases, so-called dry wound care is recommended i.e. covering the wound with a dressing without providing moist wound healing conditions.

An appropriate dressing for post-op wounds should therefore:

  • be sterile
  • provide a good barrier, absorb fluid or exudate and keep the wound dry
  • be adherent to the skin but atraumatic on removal and not stick to the wound

The dressing and wound pad size should always be chosen in relation to the wound size to ensure that the wound area is completely and safely covered by the wound pad.

As an alternative, a sterile compress can be used combined with an unsterile fixation such as the Elastoplast fixation tape, wide area fixation or sensitive fixation – depending on wound location and individual preferences.

Why is proper wound care important?

It is important to ensure proper wound care for post-operative wounds:

  • to prevent infections
  • to reduce scarring
  • to minimise pain during dressing changes
  • to provide easy, convenient, and safe wound treatment for undisturbed healing without complications.
To do so, different aspects have to be taken into consideration1:  

Before the operation, pre-operative, the patient has to be prepared individually according to the type of surgery and risk of the patient.  

During the operation, intra-operative, compliance with all hygiene regulations during the surgery (structural requirements, clothing, processes) has to be ensured. 

After surgery, post-operative, the first wound dressing will be applied in the operation theatre and the surgeon will decide further wound treatment and dressing changes. Usually, sterile wound dressings should be used. The patient should be trained e.g. on basic hygiene rules, the dressing change should happen under antiseptic / hygienic conditions (non-touch technique, protect from water) and the wound should be observed regularly to detect complications early. 

The latter is the one the patient himself can impact. 

How long to keep a dressing on after surgery

Post-operative wound care is always related to the individual wound situation and the treatment should be performed as per doctor's recommendation. 

After the primary wound closure by the surgeon the wound is generally protected with a sterile dressing. Approximately after 2 days* the dressing is changed for the first time and the wound observed by the doctor. Afterwards, the dressing should be changed daily (individually after consultation with the doctor). This can be done at home by the patient. 

Always make sure to:

  • use sterile wound dressings
  • follow basic hygiene rules
  • change the dressing under antiseptic / hygienic conditions (non-touch technique, protect from water)
  • observed the wound regularly to detect complications early. 

How long do surgical wounds take to heal?

In general, after 6-12 days* after surgery the sutures, staples or drains are removed by the doctor. Proper care according to the doctor’s recommendation is important until the post-operative wound has healed completely.

The healing time depends on its size and location. Underlying illnesses like diabetes as well as age can also influence the healing process, with older patients’ wounds sometimes requiring more time.

*individually different, decision by the attending physician

Surgical wound infection

Usually, sterile conditions are not given at home but they are also not required for wounds without complications. Nevertheless, post-operative wounds should be treated with sterile dressings to reduce the risk of wound infections. It is important to apply the dressing in a hygienic way: wash your hands before treatment, wear gloves and don’t touch the wound pad while opening or applying the dressing (non-touch technique).

As with any type of wound, it is important to keep an eye on healing progress and watch for signs of wound infection after surgery. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience excessive redness or swelling around the wound or sutures, unpleasant smell or discharge, or if you feel warmth.

While you may experience some post-operative pain following a procedure, these symptoms or additional pain could indicate an infection. Use Elastoplast wound dressings to protect the wound, using silver technology within the wound pad, which helps to reduce infection to surgical wounds.

How to care for surgical wounds

Post-operative wound care is always related to the individual wound situation, treatment as per doctor's recommendation. When treating a post-operative wound make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, put on gloves to prevent infections and use sterile dressings.

Elastoplast offers different products to ensure proper wound treatment:

Step 1: Cleanse the wound

Elastoplast Wound Spray is an easy to use spray for the antiseptic cleansing by mechanical irrigation of minor acute wounds such as cuts, abrasions, first and minor second-degree burns and open blisters. It's pain-free and can also be used for chronic wounds and postoperative wound care as per your doctor’s instructions. The Elastoplast Wound Spray also helps to remove crusts or clotted dressings.

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Step 2: Gently dry the wound

Gently dry the wound with a sterile compress.

Packshot of the Elastoplast XXL Sensitive dressing plaster

Step 3: Apply Sensitive Dressing

The sterile Elastoplast Sensitive Dressing XL/XXL enables dry wound healing. The extra skin-friendly sterile plasters protect from infection with maximum comfort.  

With their transparent flexible film & strong adhesion, Sterile Waterproof XL/XXL Dressings protect from infection by enabling dry wound healing through waterproof protection, optimal when showering or swimming.

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Elastoplast Sensitive Dressings

  • are sterile
  • are dermatologically approved*
  • have highly absorbent, non-sticky wound pads
  • protect from infection
  • can be used for cuts, abrasions & post-operative wounds 

*skin compatibility dermatologically approved 
The dressing should be changed regularly, as per doctor’s recommendation. This also gives you the chance to observe the wound regularly to detect complications early. 

How to reduce the risk of scarring after wound closure

After approx. 14 days* the wound is closed and further wound healing support can be considered.  

Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment keeps the newly healed skin/tissue and surrounded area supple and hydrated. Elastoplast's Scar Reducer patches the visibility of raised & red scars with first visible results after 3-4 weeks.

Both products can be used as soon as the wound is closed and sutures are removed.

*individually different, decision by the attending physician

The Do’s and Don’ts to heal surgical wounds


Keep your wound protected with dry, sterile dressings.

Make sure your wound is fully covered in-shower by a waterproof sterile plaster.

Consult your doctor in case of impaired woundhealing or any sign of infection; Sign of infection: redness, warmth, pain, secretion and swelling.


Do NOT wear tight clothing around wound.

Do NOT use alcohol, chemicals, soaps, or home remedies around your wound.

Avoid smoking as it is known to impair the healing process.