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Wound Dehiscence


What is wound dehiscence?

Wound dehiscence happens 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. Most surgical incisions that fail to heal come apart about 1 week after surgery. 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 it starts to come apart:

  • A feeling that the wound is ripping apart or giving way
  • Leaking of any type of 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?

  • Health conditions such as diabetes, lung, heart, or liver problems, kidney or blood vessel disease, or blood disorders
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids or immune-therapy drugs
  • Anything that puts pressure on the wound, or causes it to move, such as coughing, lifting, or internal swelling
  • Infection at the wound site
  • Smoking
  • Lack of good nutrition

How is wound dehiscence diagnosed?

Usually, your caregiver can tell your wound has opened simply by looking at it. You may need the following tests:

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of the wound on a monitor.
  • An x-ray, CT, or MRI scan takes pictures of your wound. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell your caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is wound dehiscence treated?

  • Daily wound care includes examining, cleaning, and dressing your wound.
  • Treatments may be used to help your wound heal. You may need to put medicine on your wound. You may also be given a vacuum device to pull fluid from your wound.
  • Splints or binders may be used to provide support and hold the area near your wound still.
  • Debridement is a procedure caregivers use to remove damaged, dead, or infected tissue to help the wound heal.
  • Stitches may be used to close your wound. Your caregiver may leave the wound open to heal from the inside out.

How do I care for myself to promote healing?

  • Keep your wound clean and dry. Carefully clean your wound as directed. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Look for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Wash your hands before and after you touch the wound.
  • Rest as directed. Proper rest is needed for wound healing.
  • 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 caregiver may also recommend certain drinks for added protein.
  • Do not smoke. For planned surgeries, stop smoking 30 days before surgery. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can slow healing. Ask your caregiver for information if you need help quitting.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • Your pain gets worse.
  • Your wound leaks fluid or a small amount of blood.
  • You have muscle, joint, or body aches, sweating, or a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You feel like the wound is ripping apart or giving way.
  • Your wound oozes yellow or green pus, looks swollen or red, or feels warm.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual, or you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

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 caregivers 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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