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Discharge Instructions: Changing Your Dressing

You are going home with sutures (stitches) or surgical staples in place. You may also have special strips of tape called Steri-Strips. These items were used to close your incision, help stop bleeding, and speed healing. Follow the tips on this sheet to help your incision heal.

Home Care

  • Clean your work area:

    • Put pets in another room.

    • Clean your work area with soap and water.

    • 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 1 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:

    • Irrigate and clean the incision and apply a new dressing as directed.

    • 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 immediately if you have any of the following:

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

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C)

  • Shaking chills

  • Vomiting or nausea that doesn’t go away

  • Numbness, coldness, or tingling around the incision area


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