Basic Postoperative Wound Care

You've just come from the dermatologist's office where you had a skin biopsy to remove a suspicious mole and check it for cancer. How should you care for the biopsy site to have an optimal result and the smallest possible?

First, start taking some extra vitamin C. Surgeons have known for many years that vitamin C is a co-factor in collagen synthesis, helping to make the skin heal more quickly with a smaller scar. This should be continued for at least 3 months for best results.

Next, avoid removing the bandage for the first 24 hours as the area is more likely to bleed if it is disturbed. After the first day, you can usually remove the Band-Aid and shower, allowing the water to gently cleanse the area. Wash cloths, soaps or detergents should not be used on the biopsy site.

Make sure to follow all instructions you have been given and return at the appointed time to have your sutures removed. Removing sutures before the site is cured can result in opening of the skin and a large scar. Leaving sutures in too long can leave unsightly "railroad tracks" at the biopsy site.

Usually a topical antibiotic cream and a Band-Aid are all that are needed for small biopsies. Sometimes an allergic reaction can occur either from the Band-Aid adhesive or the antiseptic. If the skin become red and itches, you might try doing without the Band-Aid or the cream for a day to give the surrounding skin a rest ..

If the site itches, avoid scratching as this can dislodge the sutures and cause the scar to widen. If you experience pain at the site after the first day, especially if you notice redness or drain from the site, you should call your doctor to make sure it's not infected. Infection can delay healing and result in a less than optimal result.

Healing occurs more quickly after biopsies on the face while those on the trunk, arms or legs can take up to three weeks or longer to heal. During the healing phase, excessive use of that part of the body, can cause breakage of the sutures with widening of the scar. It's best to be patient and not rush back into an exercise program while your biopsy site is healing.

Application of topical vitamin C or vitamin E serums or creams can speed wound healing and keep the site hydrated and less dry. Newer remedies for minimizing scarring such as silicone sheets placed over the healing wound are showing promise, however the cost may be quite high. These are especially effective in persons predisposed to forming hypertrophic scars or keloids.

Complete healing may take several months while the redness of the site fades. This is absolutely normal. Best results are seen after 3-6 months. If you have questions be sure to call your physician.