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Non-Healing Surgical Wounds

What Are Non-Healing Surgical Wounds?

A non-healing surgical wound can occur after surgery when a wound caused by an incision doesn’t heal as expected. This is usually caused by infection – a rare but serious complication.

Causes of poor wound-healing depend on the type and location of the procedure, health condition and other factors. These things can raise the risk of complications:

  • Bacteria on the skin or from other parts of the body
  • Weakened immune system
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes
  • Lifestyle habits such as smoking or poor nutrition
  • Advanced age
  • Being overweight
  • Emergency surgery
  • Abdominal or intestinal surgeries (bacterial infection)
  • Surgeries lasting over two hours


Symptoms of a non-healing surgical wound depend on its location and type. Your surgeon and care team will know the normal healing process and timeframe. They monitor wounds for signs of infection or other complications.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • Fever
  • Pus or drainage
  • Increased pain and redness
  • Wound feels hot
  • Foul smell
  • Deep or dried out appearance

Treatment Options

Your doctor will examine the wound and review your symptoms. Complications usually occur within 30 days. Report any symptoms to your doctor or care provider.

Wound evaluation may include sampling fluid from the wound. Wound treatment may include:

  • Cleaning skin
  • Wound irrigation (gently spraying with a water solution)
  • Frequent surgical-dressing changes and wound inspection
  • Medication to prevent infection and relieve pain
  • Debridement (removing injured or dead tissue)
  • Vacuum-assisted closure (drains blood or fluid)
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (delivers a high amount of oxygen to the wound)
  • Skin or tissue grafting
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Education and counseling about wound care, diet and nutrition, and home care
  • Social services, including resources and support for coping with chronic illness

Non-healing surgical wounds are closely monitored at every step. It’s important to follow your doctor and care providers’ instructions for at-home wound care.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of non-healing surgical wounds, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat non-healing surgical wounds.