Dealing with a surgical wound

A surgical wound is basically an incision in the skin by a scalpel during surgery. This type of wound is made during the placement of a drain. Generally, surgical wounds tend to vary in size. In most cases, they are sealed with sutures but oftentimes left open to recuperate.

What are the types?

A surgical wound can be categorized into 4 groups. The classification is based on the risk for infection, how clean or contaminated a wound is and site of the wound.

  • Class I – these are considered as clean wounds without any signs of infection or inflammation. The skin, eye or vascular system is often affected.
  • Class II – these are known as clean-contaminated wounds. Even though there are no signs of infection, it is at risk for becoming infected due to its site.
  • Class III – a surgical wound where an outside object was in contact with is at high risk for infection and considered as a contaminated wound
  • Class IV – this surgical wound is dirty-contaminated such as wounds that were exposed to fecal matter.

What are the indications?


A surgical wound is regularly monitored to ensure that it is properly healing.

A surgical wound is regularly monitored to ensure that it is properly healing. The indications of an infected surgical wound include:

  • Drainage of pus
  • Increased redness and pain around the wound
  • Delayed healing
  • Foul odor or drainage from the wound

In some instances, an infected wound might appear dry or deep. In most cases, fever might also be present.

Management of a surgical wound

The treatment for a surgical wound is oftentimes based on the its site. The dressings are applied over the wound and requires regular changing.

The skin around the surgical wound should be cleaned, often with soap and salt water. The wound also requires irrigation with salt water. This typically involves filling a syringe with salt water and spraying the skin adjacent the wound.

Home care

The treatment for a surgical wound at home include regular cleaning and dressing changes. Over-the-counter pain medications can also help lessen the discomfort.

Oftentimes, the individual can go home after being hospitalized before the wound has fully healed. It is vital to carefully follow the home care instructions given by the doctor. By following the directions correctly, it ensures proper healing and lower the chances for an infection.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a surgical wound is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly care for this type of wound, register for a first aid and CPR course with Kelowna First Aid.