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A to Z: Wound Dehiscence

May also be called: Wound Dihiscence; Surgical Wound Dehiscence; Operative Wound Dehiscence

Wound dehiscence (dih-HISS-ints) is a condition where a cut made during a surgical procedure separates or ruptures after it has been stitched back together.

More to Know

Any surgery involves making incisions (cuts) in the body to reach an area that needs treatment. Many modern surgeries are minimally invasive, meaning the incisions are small. But some operations, called open surgeries, still require a long incision that has to be stitched back together with sutures in order to heal correctly.

If an incision separates following surgery, the wound is considered "dehisced." This means it has split along a natural line. The split can happen in just the skin layers, or the entire wound can open back up.

Wound dehiscence often can happen with abdominal surgeries, such as C-sections (when babies are delivered through an incision in the abdomen) and laparotomies (which allow doctors to examine the abdominal organs).

Wound dehiscence usually happens within 3-10 days after the operation. This can be due to infections, injuries, early stitch removal, weak tissue in the area of the wound, incorrect suture technique, or stretching of the wound due to lifting, vomiting, or coughing violently.

Someone with wound dehiscence might have broken sutures, pain, bleeding, swelling, redness, fever, and a visibly open wound. If an abdominal wound dehiscence is not treated, it can lead to wound evisceration — a medical emergency in which internal organs stick out through the incision.

Treatment for wound dehiscence can involve medicines to fight pain and treat infection, and surgery to remove dead tissue and repair the wound.

Keep in Mind

Wound dehiscence that's not treated can become a life-threatening condition. But when it's diagnosed early, it generally responds well to treatment. To help prevent wound dehiscence, someone who has had surgery should keep the wound area clean, take all medicines as directed, and follow a doctor's recommendations about when it's safe to return to regular activities.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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