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Caring for the Surgical Incisions

When your operation is finished, a sterile dressing will be used to cover the incisions made in your skin by the surgeon. Each surgeon has a slightly different routine for removing the dressing, but there are a few important points. The dressing that is put on in the operating room is a sterile dressing. Therefore, even if becomes stained with blood that seeps through the bandages (which is very common and quite normal), it is usually left in place for two to three days.

After two to three days the wound is usually sealed tight as it begins to heal, and the dressing can be safely removed. Make sure that you follow your surgeon's advice on this matter. Although the wound is sealed, it is not yet very strong, and it takes several weeks or months for the skin to regain some of the strength that it had before the surgery. Therefore, your surgeon will tell you when it is safe to take a shower with the wound uncovered (usually around four or five days after the operation), and when it is safe to swim or immerse the wound fully in water (usually after four or so weeks).

As the surgical incisions are healing, it is normal for them to be slightly red and they are often a little bit itchy. However, if the wounds become very red and angry looking, or if fluid starts to leak from the wound after several days, you should call your doctor immediately to let them know that you are worried about the way that your wound is healing. The sizes of the scars that are left behind from shoulder surgery depend upon what type of surgery was performed. It is important to realize that scars take up to 1 year to completely "remodel", which means that can continue to fade and become less noticeable for as long as one year after the operation. There is some evidence to suggest that you should avoid sun exposure while the scar is still healing, because the scar can become pigmented and more noticeable if it is exposed to the sun early on. Therefore, many people cover their scars if they are likely to receive a lot of sun for the first six months or so after the operation.

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