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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The following factors increase your chance of developing wound dehiscence.
OverweightIncreasing agePoor nutritionDiabetesSmokingMalignant 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 due to: fluid accumulation (ascites); inflamed bowel; severe coughing, straining, or vomitingLong-term use of corticosteroid medications
Other medical conditions, such as
If you experience one or more of these symptoms in the surgical area, contact your doctor.
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 studies, such as:
X-ray—to evaluate the extent of wound separation
Ultrasound—to evaluate for pus and pockets of fluid
CT scan—to evaluate for pus and pockets of fluid
When appropriate, frequent changes in wound dressing to prevent infectionWhen appropriate, wound exposure to air to accelerate healing and prevent infection, and allow growth of new tissue from below
Surgical removal of contaminated, dead tissueResuturingPlacement of a temporary or permanent piece of mesh to bridge the gap in the wound
If you are diagnosed with wound dehiscence, follow your doctor's
When appropriate, have antibiotic therapy prior to surgery.When appropriate, have antibiotic therapy after surgery.When using wound dressing, maintain light pressure on wound.Keep wound area clean.Comply with post-operative instructions.
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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 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, 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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