Dr. Saber’s Blog

How to Properly Care for Your Incision After Surgery (and Prevent Infection!)

How do I care for my incision after surgery?

Upon arriving home after your surgical procedure, you (or the friend taking care of you) will become responsible for taking care of your surgical incision. We’ll provide you with aftercare instructions before your plastic surgery and send you home with everything you need.

Proper incision care is essential to reduce pain, risk of infection, and scarring.

Surgical wound care is an important part of your healing process. Proper wound care includes:

Preparing to change the dressing

When you go home, you’ll have gauze or bandages over the incision site. Regular dressing changes are important for keeping the incision site clean and supporting healing.

Before starting the process, gather up your materials (gauze pads, medical gloves, surgical tape, scissors, new bandages, and a plastic bag) and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Once your hands are clean, put on fresh medical gloves, remove the old dressing, and put the old, dirty bandages, gauze, and tape into the plastic bag.

Cleaning the incision

It’s important to keep the incision clean to prevent infection after surgery. The steps for cleaning include:

  • Gently wash the incision with soap and water, but do not soak or scrub!
  • Don’t use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, skin cleansers, iodine, lotion, cream, or herbal products, all of which can harm the tissue and slow wound healing.
  • Pat the wound dry with a fresh, clean towel.

Take showers or sponge baths until your instructions say it’s okay to take baths. Before showering, cover the dressing with a plastic bag or plastic wrap to keep it dry.

Inspecting the incision

It is essential to check the incision every day to maintain the health of the wound. When inspecting an incision, you’re looking for signs of healing or infection. Look out for:

  • Wound separation: The edges of the incision should fit together snugly. If the wound begins to open, it may not heal properly and is at higher risk of infection. If you notice wound separation, call our office.
  • Drainage: You may have a surgical drain in place to keep fluid from accumulating around the surgical site. Drainage should be pinkish (indicating some blood) to clear and will decrease as the wound heals.
  • Healing ridge: The presence of a palpable healing ridge along the incision confirms that scar tissue is forming.
  • Bleeding: If there is bleeding, apply direct, constant pressure to the area. If bleeding continues, call our office.
Caring for Surgical Incisions

Applying the new dressing

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, removed the old dressing, and cleaned and inspected the incision, it’s time to apply the new dressing.

Place a sterile gauze bandage over the incision. Then, cut new tape strips and apply them on all four sides of the bandage to hold it in place.

Dispose of the old dressing and dirty gloves, wash your hands, and clean any clothing or surfaces that came in contact with bodily fluids.

Caring for stitches (sutures), staples, tissue glue, or adhesive strips

Stitches or staples may cause redness, swelling, mild irritation, and itching where they enter the skin. You may have some drainage in the first few days after surgery, this is expected.

The incision may be protected and held together with tissue glue or small adhesive strips. When they get wet, pat them dry immediately before applying a new dressing.

The glue and the adhesive strips will fall off on their own over time.

If you need to come back to the office to have staples or stitches removed, the timeline for this will be included in your post-operative instructions.

What are surgical site infections?

The skin is a natural barrier against infection. Even with proper precautions and protocols in place, any break in the skin can lead to an infection.

Doctors refer to infections in the incision area as surgical site infections (SSIs). The chances of developing an SSI after surgery are about 1-3%.

Some patients are at higher risk of SSIs than others and will need to take extra careful care of their incisions. These patients include:

  • Older adults
  • Obese
  • Smokers
  • Patients with medical conditions like cancer or diabetes
  • Immunocompromised (weakened or suppressed immune system)

By working with a board-certified surgeon, you reduce or eliminate your risk of infections introduced by contaminated surgical tools or operating spaces.

Your main risk of post-surgical infection is from poor wound care like not washing hands, not cleaning the incision, or using dirty bandages.

What are the signs of infection after surgery?

Most patients will be sent home with antibiotics to prevent infection. Combined with properly caring for your incision after surgery, this keeps your chance of infection low. However, a surgical site infection can spread and become very serious if not caught early.

While cleaning and inspecting the incision, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of wound infection:

  • Fever of 101°F or higher
  • Sore, red, or swollen skin around the incision.
  • The skin at the surgical site itches and/or there is a rash.
  • The skin around the incision feels warm to the touch.
  • Pus oozing from the incision or an odor coming from the wound.
  • Change in the size of the incision.

What is the recovery time for plastic surgery incisions?

The full recovery time for plastic surgery will depend on the type of surgery and your general health. In general, a surgical incision fully heals within two weeks. However, as the skin heals together and scar tissue begins to form, it will require less constant care.

Again, your post-care instructions will include more in-depth information on what to look for to know if your incision is healed.

Why choose Saber Plastic Surgery for cosmetic surgery?

Dr. Sepideh Saber is a board-certified plastic surgeon providing cosmetic procedures and surgeries from a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. She ensures that all questions are answered so that each patient can make a truly well-informed decision.

Keeping her patients safe remains her top priority. She employs the latest state-of-the-art techniques and performs her procedures in the top surgical centers and hospitals, where she enjoys full admitting privileges.

To request a consultation, please call (877) 205-4100 or click here to schedule a consultation online.

Dr. Saber is located in Encino, CA for patients throughout the Los Angeles area. We are also convenient to patients in Woodland Hills, Sherman Oaks, Calabasas, Burbank, Glendale, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Northridge, North Hollywood, Malibu, Topanga, Canoga Park, Reseda, Valley Glen, Chatsworth, West Hills, Winnetka, Universal City, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Downtown Los Angeles, Silverlake, and Echo Park.

Dr. Saber graduated from Stanford University’s world-renowned medical school and did her plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at the equally lauded University of Southern California. She then completed a fellowship at New York University in the extremely challenging and delicate disciplines of hand surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Saber offers a more sensitive, female perspective for patients of all ages, genders, and orientations. Former patients from all walks of life have praised not only their treatment outcomes but her caring, thoughtful approach to a wide array of appearance and health-related matters.
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    Dr. Sepideh Saber, MD, FACS

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  • What patients say about Dr. Saber

    Over 16 Reviews

    I was fortunate to find Dr. Saber after researching board-certified surgeons who specialize in breast cancer reconstruction revision surgery. I knew I was in good hands from the moment I spoke with the lovely and efficient Marlene, Dr Saber's office manager. Dr Saber patiently listened to my concerns and, after examining me, explained what I could realistically expect the outcome to be from another surgery. She also explained to me that she would need to review my previous surgery notes before we could discuss a possible further surgery, which I found comforting and highly ethical. I also discussed a couple of other procedures that I would like done, including fat removal from my large upper arms that had caused me great embarrassment for several years. Dr. Saber is an excellent surgeon who is incredibly kind and genuine. She truly understands the female body and the emotional aspect of body insecurities yet, she is transparent about what can and cannot be done and takes time to discuss realistic expectations and outcomes. My breast reconstruction revision surgery will take place in the New Year, but in the meantime, I have the most fabulous upper arms that I recently flaunted in a strapless dress (something I have not done in years). Dr Saber is truly one of a kind, and I still cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found her. I highly recommend Dr Saber.

    Linda DeCarlo November 29, 2023

    I don’t have enough wonderful words to describe Dr Saber and Marlene! I had a tummy tuck done this year and from start to finish the entire experience was amazing. Marlene is always so helpful and works so hard to make every detail a breeze for you. When I had my consultation with Dr Saber I was at a point of complete agony with my body. She instantly took that stress and frustration off my shoulders! As a woman not being heard by doctors for years I left that consultation with happy tears knowing I had finally found my Dr. It was a major surgery and I felt completely zen and at peace going in because she really does make you feel that safe. I didn’t think I would ever look the way I do now! She gave me the gift of having the body I kept fighting for. I will never stop recommending her.

    Monica Prusa October 9, 2023

    I saw Dr. Saber when I broke my wrist. I ended up having to have surgery. She did an excellent job and I am healing nicely. She was very professional, but was also very kind and compassionate. I would highly recommend her!!

    Sandy Schaupp September 13, 2022

    I LOVED DR SABER!!! There are a few reasons why I chose her. One was because she’s a female Doctor that was my goal who also did a good job (which I was able to confirm with all her before and after photos) and what sold me was my safety in mind. She made me feel like I was in the best hands ever along with Marlene who coordinated everything THANK YOU LADIES! Dr Saber helped me get back the body I have always desired. I had a lot of stomach fat from weight gain and I lost weight so a lot of my weight was in my front lower and upper abdomen. Now I have a super beautiful curvy body like an hourglass after a tummy tuck and lipo she did. She understood the assignment hahaha . I’m 32 years old no kids just wanted to enjoy my younger body looking and feeling beautiful and she really took good care of me. Even after hours I had an emergency due to my fault but she was there and got back to me very quickly and I’m very grateful. I also think her work says a lot because I stopped taking pain medication on the 3rd day after surgery and was fine with very minimal pain I was able to tolerate the healing process. Highly recommend going with her I just had a wonderful experience and would do it all over again if I had too. Maybe after I have kids. Thanks Dr Saber and team <3

    STEPHANIE d July 15, 2022

    Dr.Saber is by far one of the best plastic surgeons. I love how she takes her time to explain any procedure to the patients understanding. She always makes sure to answers any and all questions.From fillers to body contours she’s the one you want.

    Katherine Melara February 15, 2022

    Dr Saber is amazing! She is caring and very informative. I went in for fillers and she explained procedure step by step. I highly recommend her and look forward to future visits.

    Amanda Vazquez December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. She took time to listen, answer all my questions and was forthright in her recommendations. Her staff was friendly and helpful. I was very happy with the results and plan on going back. If you are looking for a first rate professional experience look no further she is the doctor for you!

    T R December 18, 2020

    Dr. Saber is one of a kind plastic surgeon with a heart of gold. She is a well verse plastic surgeon that puts her patient's needs before anything else. She genuinely cares about every single patient, and her work speaks for itself. I notice every post-operative result on her Instagram (@saberplasticsurgery) the patients have this glow that radiates through. I have been going to Dr. Saber for my Botox for the past 3 years, and love the results every time. I know who I will be going to for any future plastic surgery needs, and will confidently refer family and friends to Dr. Saber for any Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery consultations.

    Rudy Garcia December 16, 2020

    I have nothing but great things to say about Dr. Saber! I am so pleased with my results from a breast augmentation she performed on me back in late June! She answered all my questions and concerns before and after my surgery. She’s very easy to get in contact with and she’s so nice. She made feel so comfortable throughout the whole process. 100/10 Lover her work!!

    Amanda Villegas October 15, 2020

    Dr Saber is hands down the best surgeon! She took her time answering my questions and explained procedure in detail. After doing liposuction six months ago, I am extremely happy with my results and I appreciate her so much.

    Marlene Cosentino October 15, 2020

    Dr. Saber is so kind and thorough with her patients! She is an amazing doctor and genuinely cars about everyone she comes in contact with. I would recommend her to anyone for any hand surgery or cosmetic procedure.

    Rachel Meach October 15, 2020