Radical Neck Dissection

Care After

Refer to this sheet in the next few weeks. These instructions provide you with information on caring for yourself after your procedure. Your caregiver may also give you more specific instructions. Your treatment has been planned according to current medical practices, but problems sometimes occur. Call your caregiver if you have any problems or questions after your procedure.


  • Clean the area of the cuts (incision sites) twice each day. Dip a clean cotton swab in a sterile saline solution and gently swab the incision areas.

  • Inspect your incision sites daily to watch for signs of infection such as pain, redness, swelling, or warmth.

  • If you have drainage tubes, follow your caregiver's instructions for caring for them. Return to have them removed as instructed by your caregiver.

  • Return to your caregiver when it is time to remove your stitches or staples. This is usually done 1 or 2 weeks after surgery.

  • Do not shower, bathe, or swim until all drains and stitches or staples have been removed. You may wash yourself with a sponge and mild soap and water.

  • Do not lift anything heavy for 3 to 6 weeks after your procedure.

  • Follow your caregiver's instructions for performing certain exercises or going to a physical therapist. This can help you regain some of the motion in your upper body if muscles or nerves were removed during your procedure. Do not exercise this area until instructed by your caregiver.

  • Try eating soft foods for a while after the procedure. This can help minimize pain if your throat is sore or you have difficulty swallowing.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicines.


  • You have pain that is not relieved after taking pain medicine.

  • Your neck or shoulder gets weaker or stiffer.

  • You develop a fever.


  • Your drain comes out or gets blocked.

  • You have swelling, redness, or blood or fluids draining from the area around the incision or drainage tube.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • Your incision or drainage area becomes increasingly painful.

  • Your incision starts to open.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.