Wound Care After Skin Surgery (The James)

Wound Care After Skin Surgery

Wound care is done to clean the wound, prevent infection and prevent a scab from forming. Follow these instructions to help your wound heal better. 

When to do the Wound Care

  • Keep the original dressing in place for 48 hours after your surgery.
  • After the original dressing is removed, do wound care as directed.
  • Stop the wound care when your skin has healed over or the stitches have dissolved or the staples have been removed.

Supplies (use items checked)

___ Tape

___ White petroleum jelly (Vaseline)

___ Prescription Bactroban ointment (Mupirocin 2%)

___ Prescription antibiotic eye ointment

___ Band-Aid or non-adherent gauze dressing (Telfa)

___ Cotton tip applicators (Q-tips)

___ Gauze

Care of the Wound

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Gently remove the old dressing. If the dressing is stuck, wet the dressing with tap water, wait 3 to 5 minutes and then remove the dressing, or remove the old dressing in the bath or shower.
  3. Clean the wound. Allow soap, water, and/or shampoo to wash over wound, and then rinse the wound with tap water.
  4. Dry the wound with a clean Q-tip, cotton ball or gauze pad.
  5. Use a clean Q-tip to put a thick layer of ointment or Vaseline over the wound. If Dermabond was used do not use Vaseline and cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing.
  6. Cover the wound with a band-aid or a non-stick pad. Before placing the non-stick pad over the wound, cut the pad with clean scissors so it will cover the wound. If you choose to not use a dressing, make sure to reapply the ointment or Vaseline frequently to keep the wound moist at all times.
  7. Use tape to secure the pad over the wound.

Wound Bleeding

To prevent bleeding, do not drink alcohol, and do not take aspirin or products with aspirin. Check with your doctor about using any aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin while your wound is healing. These drugs may increase the chance of bleeding.

If there is a large amount of bleeding, follow these steps:

  1. Put firm pressure over the wound for 20 minutes.
  2. If the bleeding stops after you hold pressure on the wound, do not remove the dressing. Keep the original dressing in place. Put a small piece of clean dry gauze over the dressing to help support the dressing.
  3. If the bleeding does not stop after applying pressure, put firm pressure over the wound again for another 20 minutes.
  4. If the bleeding does not stop, keep holding pressure on the wound and call your dermatologist or go to your local emergency room.


You may take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or extra-strength Tylenol every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain and discomfort. Follow the directions on the package. If you are not able to take Tylenol, ask your doctor what medicine to take for pain.

Activity Restrictions

  • No heavy lifting over 10 pounds for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery or as directed by your doctor.
  • No strenuous or aerobic activity that increases your heart rate for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery or as directed by your doctor.
  • Walking and driving are allowed as tolerated after the surgery.

What to Expect After Surgery

  • A slight pink or brown colored fluid leaking from your wound. This may show on the dressing
  • Mild pain
  • Mild tenderness at the wound site, like a bruise
  • Mild color changes to the skin, like a bruise
  • A black eye can appear with surgery to the face
  • Eyelids may swell with surgery to the face

Once your wound has completely healed, you may massage the wound area two times a day for about 1 minute each time. This will help the scar to soften.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Pain gets worse or not relieved by your pain medicine
  • Increased redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus-like drainage from the wound
  • Fever of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.06 degrees Celsius) or higher.
  • Bleeding that does not stop after holding firm pressure for 20 minutes
  • A marble sized bump (hematoma) under the skin that is blue, purple or red
  • Red streaks on the skin spreading away from the wound

How to reach the OSU Dermatology Department

  • Call The OSU Dermatology Department at (614) 293-0404 for problems Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
  • For urgent problems in the evenings or after hours, call the hospital operator at (614) 293-8000 and ask for the Dermatologist on call.
  • If you have not received a report of your skin biopsy either by mail or by phone within 3 weeks after your biopsy, call the dermatology office at (614) 293-0404.



© July 8, 2020. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit cancer.osu.edu/PFRC