Discharge Instructions: Caring for Your Abdominal Incision

Discharge Instructions: Caring for Your Abdominal Incision

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Discharge Instructions: Caring for Your Abdominal Incision

You are going home with sutures (stitches) or surgical staples in place. Or you may have special strips of tape called Steri-Strips. One of these items was used to close your incision, help stop bleeding, and speed healing. Follow the tips on this sheet to help your incision heal. Ask your doctor when you may shower, but do not take a tub bath until your stitches, Steri-Strips, or staples are removed. 

Hands being rubbed together under running water.

Image shows old dressing being removed

A new dressing covers the wound.

Home Care

  • Clean your work area:

    • Put pets in another room.

    • Use soap and water to clean the surface you’ll be working on.

    • Spread a clean cloth or paper towel over the surface.

    • Move away from the clean surface if you need to cough or sneeze.

  • Gather your supplies:

    • Packaged dressing for your wound

    • Irrigation solutions (if using these)

    • Pair of scissors (cleaned with soap and water)

    • Medical tape

    • Disposable gloves (2 pairs)

    • Clean plastic trash bag (open it before you wash your hands)

  • Wash your hands:

    • Use liquid soap.

    • Work up a good lather and scrub for 1 to 2 minutes.

    • Be sure to scrub between your fingers and under your nails.

    • Rinse with warm water, keeping your fingers pointed down.

    • Use a clean paper towel to dry your hands and turn off the faucet.

  • Prepare your dressing supplies:

    • Peel back the edges of the dressing packages. Pour any irrigation solutions into solution cups.

    • Cut each piece of tape 4 inches longer than the dressing.

  • Remove the old dressing:

    • Put on disposable gloves.

    • Loosen the tape on the dressing by pulling gently toward the incision. Remove the dressing one layer at a time. Put it in the plastic bag immediately.

    • Remove your gloves and put them in the plastic bag. Wash your hands.

    • Put on a new pair of gloves.

  • Clean and dress the incision:

    • Clean the incision and apply a new dressing as directed.

    • Do not remove Steri-Strips even if they are starting to loosen. 

    • Put all used supplies in the plastic bag. Remove your gloves last and put them in the plastic bag. Seal the bag and put it in the trash.

    • Be sure to wash your hands again.


When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Increased pain, bleeding, redness, swelling, or foul-smelling discharge around the incision area

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Shaking chills

  • Vomiting or nausea that doesn’t go away

  • Opening of sutures or wound