Wound dehiscence is the parting of the layers of a surgical wound. Either the surface layers separate or the whole wound splits open. This is a serious condition and requires care from your doctor.
Wound dehiscence varies depending on the kind of surgery you have. The following is a list of generalized causes: Infection at the woundPressure on suturesSutures too tightInjury to the wound areaWeak tissue or muscle at the wound areaIncorrect suture technique used to close operative areaPoor closure technique at the time of surgeryUse of high-dose or long-term corticosteroids
Severe vitamin C deficiency—scurvy
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Factors that may increase your chance of wound dehiscence include: Being
overweightIncreasing agePoor nutrition
SmokingMalignant growthPresence of prior scar or radiation at the incision siteNon-compliance with post-operative instructions (such as early excessive exercise or lifting heavy objects)Surgical errorIncreased pressure within the abdomen, which can occur with fluid accumulation ascites, inflamed bowel, or severe coughing, straining, or vomitingLong-term use of corticosteroid medications
Other medical conditions, such as
Wound dehiscence may cause: BleedingPainSwellingRednessFeverBroken suturesOpen wound
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine the surgical area. Tests may include the following:
Laboratory tests, such as:
Wound and tissue cultures to determine if there is an infectionBlood tests to determine if there is an infection
Imaging tests, such as:
Treatment may include:
Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible
Frequent changes in wound dressing to prevent infection—when appropriateWound exposure to air to accelerate healing and prevent infection, and allow growth of new tissue from below—when appropriate
Surgery to: Remove contaminated and/or dead tissueResuture the woundPlace a temporary or permanent piece of mesh to bridge the gap in the wound
To help reduce your chance of wound dehiscence: When appropriate, have antibiotic therapy prior to surgeryWhen appropriate, have antibiotic therapy after surgeryWhen using wound dressing, maintain light pressure on woundKeep wound area cleanComply with post-operative instructions
Fundamentals of Cutaneous Surgery. St. Louis, MO: CV Mosby; 1988: 498.
DeCherney AH, Nathan L.
Current Obstetric & Gynecologic Diagnosis & Treatment. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2003.
Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary.
Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders, Harcourt Health Sciences; 2005.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information Home Edition.
2nd ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2004.
Schwartz S, Brunicardi F, et al.
Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2007.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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