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What Happens After Plastic Surgery for Wound Treatment?

by Dr. Ross Rudolph

Advice about care for post-plastic surgery wounds.

Severe wounds can cause pain, loss of function, be aesthetically unappealing, or all of the above. Fortunately, there are a number of plastic surgery techniques that can help.

Skin grafts take tissue from one part of the body and suture it over the wound. They are often used for burn patients. Generally, skin is taken from an area that is concealed by clothing. Depending on the severity of the wound, and the type of skin graft, recovery can range from three weeks to a couple of months.

Another technique is microsurgery, which is used to repair nerves and blood vessels. Microsurgery is common during breast reconstruction surgery, such as DIEP flap or free flap procedures, or to reattach a severed digit.

Tissue expansion helps the body grow additional skin to cover a wound. Often used for breast reconstruction, a balloon expander gradually stretches the skin and the extra tissue is used for the procedure. Tissue expansion requires a bit of patience, as it can take a couple of months.

One of the more serious side-effects for any surgical procedure is infection, so be vigilant. Watch for pain, fever, tenderness, redness, swelling, fluid around sutures. Notify your doctor immediately if you see any of these signs.

Take it easy. Too much activity can cause bleeding. Keep the wound clean. If possible, elevate the wounded area. It’s also a good idea to keep it out of the sun.

Regardless of the actual procedure, remember, these are serious surgeries and require serious recovery. Again, patience is in order. The skin around the wound may not look or feel “normal” until healing is complete, which might take a few months.

This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Ross Rudolph, MD, a plastic and reconstruction surgeon at Scripps Clinic in San Diego.