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Wound Dehiscence

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is wound dehiscence?

Wound dehiscence is when part or all of a wound comes apart. The wound may come apart if it does not heal completely, or it may heal and then open again. A surgical wound is an example of a wound can that develop dehiscence. Wound dehiscence can become life-threatening.

What are the signs and symptoms of wound dehiscence?

Wounds may split open even when they appear to be healing. You may notice the following when your wound starts to come apart:

  • A feeling that the wound is ripping apart or giving way
  • Leaking pink or yellow fluid from the wound
  • Signs of infection at the wound site, such as yellow or green pus, swelling, redness, or warmth

What increases my risk for wound dehiscence?

  • Wound infection, or blood or fluid under the wound
  • Diabetes, or liver, kidney, or heart disease
  • Being overweight or not getting enough nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids or immune-therapy drugs
  • Anything that puts pressure on the wound such as coughing or lifting
  • A weak immune system

How is wound dehiscence diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will know your wound has opened by looking at it. You may need an ultrasound, x-ray, or CT to check for problems deeper in the wound. You may need any of the following to treat wound dehiscence:

  • Medicines may be needed to treat an infection, help your wound heal, or decrease pain.
  • Daily wound care includes examining, cleaning, and bandaging your wound. If your wound is left open to heal, you will need to pack your wound with bandages.
  • A wound vacuum is a device that is placed over your wound. This device helps remove fluid or infection from your wound so it can heal and close.
  • Splints or binders may be used to decrease stress on your wound and help hold it together.
  • Surgery may be done to remove infected tissue or close the open wound. Skin grafts, mesh, or stitches may be used to close your wound.

How should I care for my wound?

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands before and after you touch your wound. This will help to prevent an infection.
  • Clean your wound as directed. Ask your healthcare provider if it okay to shower or take a bath. Let the soap and water run over your wound. Gently pat the area dry. Look for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.
  • Change your bandages as directed. Replace bandages after you clean the wound or bathe. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. If directed, pack your wound. Change the packing as directed.
  • Do not swim or go in hot tubs until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Hot tubs and pools can cause infection and prevent wound healing.
  • Wear your binder or splint at all times or as directed. These devices help hold your wound together.
  • Use devices as directed to help the wound heal. Your healthcare provider will show you how to care for your wound device.

What can I do to promote healing?

  • Rest as directed. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds. Do not do activities that may put stress on your wound, such as running or sports. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your usual activities.
  • Eat foods high in protein. Protein will help your wound heal. Protein can be found in lean meat, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy. Your healthcare provider may also recommend certain drinks for added protein.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can prevent your wound from healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your heart is beating faster than usual, or you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You see tissue coming through your wound.
  • You feel like your wound is opening up more.
  • Your wound oozes yellow or green pus, looks swollen or red, or feels warm.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound leaks fluid or a small amount of blood.
  • Your pain gets worse or does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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