• Wound Dehiscence

    (Surgical Wound Dehiscence; Operative Wound Dehiscence)


    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 wound
    • Pressure on sutures
    • Sutures too tight
    • Injury to the wound area
    • Weak tissue or muscle at the wound area
    • Incorrect suture technique used to close operative area
    • Poor closure technique at the time of surgery
    • Use of high-dose or long-term corticosteroids
    • Severe vitamin C deficiency—scurvy
    Wound Infection
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    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of wound dehiscence include:
    • Being overweight
    • Increasing age
    • Poor nutrition
    • Diabetes
    • Smoking
    • Malignant growth
    • Presence of prior scar or radiation at the incision site
    • Non-compliance with post-operative instructions (such as early excessive exercise or lifting heavy objects)
    • Surgical error
    • Increased pressure within the abdomen, which can occur with fluid accumulation ascites, inflamed bowel, or severe coughing, straining, or vomiting
    • Long-term use of corticosteroid medications
    • Other medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, immune problems, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy


    Wound dehiscence may cause:
    • Bleeding
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Fever
    • Broken sutures
    • Open 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 infection
    • Blood 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 appropriate
    • Wound 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 tissue
      • Resuture the wound
      • Place 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 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


    American College of Surgeons http://www.facs.org

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov


    Canadian Association of Wound Care http://www.cawc.net

    The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca


    Bennett R. 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 WN. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders, Harcourt Health Sciences; 2005.

    Porter RS. 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.

    Surgical site infection—prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 29, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    Revision Information

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