Surgical staples, sutures, and adhesives are not perfect, and unfortunately, they can begin to gradually come apart, or in rare circumstances, split completely open. This is known as wound or incision dehiscence, and it could be caused by poor suturing (for example, if the surgeon applies stitches too tightly), too much stress to the wound area, a weakened immune system (diabetes and cancer patients, for example, may have compromised skin integrity), or infection.
As you can imagine, this can be a traumatic and dangerous experience, so here are ten ways to help ensure it doesn’t happen to you following orthopedic surgery.
10 Ways to Avoid Incision Dehiscence
1. Eat Healthy
Proper nutrition can help speed wound healing and prevent dehiscence. Nutritious foods to help the skin heal include those rich in carbohydrates, fats, zinc, and vitamins A and C (required for the synthesis of collagen). However, what’s most important is protein, so plan meals that include chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and dairy.
2. Stay Hydrated
Proper hydration improves cellular migration and oxygenation of the blood, which improves the wound healing process. Plan to drink a lot of water, and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, which both dehydrate the body.
3. Be Careful Coughing or Sneezing
It can be difficult, especially if you have allergies or catch a cold, but coughing and sneezing can weaken your incision over time and lead to dehiscence. Stock up on cough drops and allergy medication if you need to.
4. Watch Your Laughter
They say laughter is the best medicine, but not always after a surgery. While a laugh or two certainly shouldn’t cause wound dehiscence, it might be best to avoid watching Step Brothers or any other movie from this list that tickles your funny bone.
5. Prevent Constipation
Straining to relieve yourself can put a lot of stress on your incision depending on where it is located. Prevent constipation by practicing proper nutrition, eating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, drinking plenty of water, or purchasing an over-the-counter remedy.
6. Stop Smoking
Of course, this is a good idea in general, but smoking depletes nutrients in your body and displaces oxygen, both of which are needed for proper and quick healing. Even if it’s just temporary, try to quit a week prior to surgery and remain smoke-free throughout the healing process. Another bonus beside the health benefits? It can greatly reduce scarring.
7. Avoid Lifting
Your physician will typically tell you not to lift anything heavier than, say, 5 pounds usually for a period of two weeks following surgery. Listen to them! Lifting heavy objects puts a lot of strain on your incision and is one of the most common causes of incision dehiscence.
8. Practice Proper Wound Care
Follow your doctor’s orders and use any prescribed ointments. Because infection is one of the leading causes of dehiscence, know the signs (unusual swelling, colored wound drainage, expanding redness, fever) and contact your physician if you think your wound may be infected.
9. Be Careful Exercising
This will be on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of surgery you’ve had and where the incision is located; so, ask your doctor about exercising. While it may be difficult for those of us that like to hit the gym or go for a run, don’t risk it if they tell you not to.
10. Brace Yourself
This is a good practice for many items on this list. If you’re about to cough, sneeze, laugh, vomit, or have a bowel movement, hold some pressure over your incision using your hands or a pillow.
Another way you can prevent wound dehiscence is by having your wound healed with BandGrip. The latest innovation in wound closure, BandGrip is a quick and easy skin closure application that uses micro-anchors to hold the skin together, allowing the body to heal naturally.
BandGrip can significantly reduce the risk of wound dehiscence, as it doesn’t involve sewing or stapling (and by tiling BandGrip, it can even be used for large surgical incisions). You can see how BandGrip works here, and be sure to talk to your doctor about its benefits before your next procedure so you can minimize your scarring.