Wound Dehiscence

ExitCare ImageWound dehiscence is when a cut (incision) breaks open and does not heal properly after surgery. It usually happens 7 to 10 days after surgery. When a wound dehiscence is noticed and treated early, it is not always dangerous.


  • Stretching of the wound area caused by lifting, vomiting, violent coughing, or straining due to constipation.

  • Wound infection.

  • Early stitch (suture) removal.

  • Poor nutrition prior to surgery.

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity.

  • Lung disease.

  • Smoking.

  • Poor nutrition.

  • Contamination during surgery.


  • Bleeding from the wound.

  • Pain.

  • Fever.

  • Wound starts breaking open.


  • Your caregiver may diagnose wound dehiscence by monitoring the incision and noting wound changes. These changes can include an increase in drainage, pain, or complaints of stretching or tearing of the wound.

  • Wound cultures may be taken to determine if there is an infection. 

  • Imaging studies, such as an MRI scan or CT scan, may be done to determine if there is a collection of pus or fluid.


Treatment may include:

  • Wound care.

  • Surgical repair.

  • Antibiotic medicine.

  • Medicines to reduce pain and swelling.


  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver. Taking pain medicine 30 minutes before changing a bandage (dressing) can help relieve pain.

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Gently wash the area with mild soap and water 2 times a day, or as directed. Rinse off the soap. Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Do not rub the wound. This may cause bleeding.

  • Follow your caregiver's instructions for how often you need to change the dressing and packing inside. Wash your hands well before and after changing your dressing. Apply a dressing to the wound as directed.

  • Take showers. Do not take tub baths, swim, or do anything that may soak the wound until it is healed.

  • Avoid exercises that make you sweat heavily.

  • Use anti-itch medicine as directed by your caregiver. The wound may itch when it is healing. Do not pick or scratch at the wound.

  • Do not lift more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) until the wound is healed, or as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed.


  • You have increased swelling or redness around the wound.

  • You have increasing pain in the wound.

  • You have an increasing amount of pus coming from the wound.

  • More of the wound breaks open.

  • You have a fever.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

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