Caring for your incision

It’s important that you take proper care of your incision to avoid infection. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The incision on your knee or hip may be covered with a light, dry dressing until your staples or stitches are removed. (This usually happens between ten and 14 days after surgery and will be done by your family doctor or a visiting nurse.) 
  •  If you notice yellow/green drainage, redness, pain, heat or odour (an unpleasant smell) around the incision, call your surgeon or family doctor right away. You may have an infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.
  • Be sure to keep your incision dry for the first two weeks. Some people get along taking sponge baths. If you leave the hospital with a dressing, you can still shower, as long as you cover the dressing with a square of plastic that’s kept in place with waterproof tape (available in drug stores). If you aren’t wearing a dressing when you leave the hospital, it’s all right to shower – just be sure to pat the incision dry with a towel.

If you come home wearing a dressing, it should be changed regularly. In some cases, patients require help from a visiting nurse. But many people are able to change the dressings themselves or with help from a family member or friend. Here’s what to do:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Open a new 4x4 inch gauze pad.
  • Gently remove the old dressing and inspect it for drainage – either clear or yellow/green – and odour. (Report yellow/green drainage and odour to your surgeon or family doctor.)
  • Wash your hands again.
  • Now pick up the new 4x4 gauze pad by one corner and lay it over the incision. Be careful not to touch the underside of the clean dressing. Use paper tape (available in the first-aid section of the drug store) to keep the new dressing in place.