At Justice Healthcare, we specialize in home care, which can come in very handy when you’ve just come home from a surgical operation. Complications after surgery are more common than most people think, but they have to be handled correctly. Otherwise, you can end up back in the hospital. The thing is, the literature they send you home with isn’t always enough to ensure you can handle the complications yourself. When you’re on your own, it can be difficult to determine what is serious and what isn’t. At Justice Healthcare Group, we bring professional medical care to you, relieving your loved ones and keeping you on the path to recovery.

In today’s blog, we want to look at a complication that is possible whenever you’re dealing with an incision: surgical incision dehiscence. Many people don’t know what surgical incision dehiscence is, and that’s a good thing! It is a complication that can occur after surgery, and it can send you back to the hospital. Its common name is “wound separation,” and it occurs when the edges of a wound don’t meet any longer.

Surgical Incision Dehiscence 101

What does a healthy incision look like?

In order to fully understand what a wound is like when things are going wrong, we need to understand what wounds look like when they’re healing well. A “happy” wound should have edges that meet well and are held very closely together by staples, sutures, surgical glue, or other methods of closing a wound. As the wound heals, it fills up with granulating tissue, which isn’t as strong as normal tissue. It needs time to strengthen, at least two weeks.

What does surgical incision dehiscence look like?

Any incision is very fragile for the first two weeks after an operation. It can be affected by something as small as a sneeze or a cough. If a suture comes loose or a bunch of sutures comes loose, the wound can open up. In mild cases, just a part of the incision will open and look like a hole in the incision. In more extreme situations, most or all of the incision will come open. Extreme situations are always emergencies!

What do you do if dehiscence happens?

One of the scariest things about even the smallest amount of dehiscence is that it can get worse and worse. We’ve all seen seams on clothing come apart because a few stitches were broken. Incisions are the same way. If an incision comes open completely, the organs under the skin can start to bulge out, an emergency called evisceration.

Another concern when it comes to dehiscence is bacteria. Any sort of opening in the incision is a place where bacteria can enter and cause problems. If you notice some dehiscence in your incision, cover it with clean materials and contact your surgeon.

What Causes Dehiscence?


Nutrients are the body’s building blocks, and without them, the body cannot heal incisions quickly. If you are malnourished or unable to eat, it is important to take extra care because your incisions will probably heal more slowly and without as much strength.

Sudden Movement

Any quick, dramatic motion involving the incision’s location can pop a suture or stitch. We see the most dehiscence in abdominal incisions, which can be opened by sneezing, coughing, lifting heavy objects, or bearing down during a bowel movement.


Bacteria slows the healing process down and keeps the incision weak. Your body needs to be able to focus on healing, not fighting off bacteria.


Because an incision on an obese patient will heal more slowly and need to heal strongly in order to support more weight, it is very important to be careful during the healing process.

How to Prevent Dehiscence

Everyone wants to recover as quickly as possible and with a minimum of complications. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to preventing your incision(s) from opening.

  • Fight constipation. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common to get constipated after surgery. The strain put on your body when you try to have bowel movements may be more than your incision can handle. Focus on maintaining proper nutrition and have a laxative approved by your surgeon on hand just in case.
  • Brace yourself. Whether you’re laughing, coughing, sneezing, or vomiting, press a pillow or your arms/hands over your incision to minimize both pain and dehiscence.
  • Prevent sneezing and coughing. Consistent coughing or sneezing gradually weakens an incision and can slow the healing process down a lot. Do whatever you can to minimize these actions. For instance, if you have allergies, check with your surgeon about taking medication for them.
  • Care for your incision correctly. You can both prevent infection and speed the healing process by caring for your incision properly. The home healthcare team at Justice Healthcare is very experienced in wound care and can help you out.
  • Do not lift heavy objects. When your surgeon tells you not to lift a certain weight for some amount of weeks, take it seriously. Many incisions open up because people assume they will be fine and lift objects that are far too heavy.

Turn to Justice Healthcare Group

Recovery from surgery is a complex process. Let the team at Justice Healthcare bring professional medical care into your Houston home. We are here to make sure that your recovery stays on track. Learn more about the unique home health care services we provide when you contact us today!