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Incision Care: Abdomen

Dressing your incision helps keep it clean, dry, and infection-free. That way, it will heal faster. Follow the steps below, whether dressing the incision yourself or with the help of a family member or other caregiver.

Wound care supplies.

Step 1. Wash your hands and set up

  • Use liquid soap. Lather and scrub vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Scrub between your fingers and under your nails.

  • Rinse with clean, running water, keeping fingers pointing down. Use a clean paper towel to dry your hands and turn off the faucet.

  • It's also acceptable to clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

  • Put all your supplies on a clean cloth or paper towel. Open a plastic trash bag.

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

  • Clean the scissors with soap and water. Cut each piece of tape 4 inches longer than the dressing.

Step 2. Remove the old dressing

  • Put on new disposable medical gloves.

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

  • Remove your gloves and put them in the plastic bag. Wash your hands again, as described above. Then put on new gloves.

Step 3. Clean and dress the incision

  • 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 bag.

  • Seal the bag and put it in the trash.

  • Be sure to wash your hands again.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if any of these happen:

  • Your incision suddenly opens

  • You have bleeding from the incision, or an increase in its size

  • Increased redness, swelling, or drainage

  • Pain in or around the incision

  • Change in the color of the incision

  • Fever of  100.4°F  ( 38°C ) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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