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Neurosurgical wound care fact sheet

Neurosurgical wound care

Neurosurgical procedures can result in surgical wounds in multiple different areas, including on the head, neck, abdomen, chest and back.

How do I care for a neurosurgical wound?

It’s important to keep the wound covered with a dry dressing for five days after the surgery, or at least for 24 hours. Do not let the injury get wet in this time.

If your child is discharged within five days and the dressing gets wet or soiled, it must be changed. Follow these steps:

  1. Gently clean the wound with warm water and gently pat it dry. Do not use soap or shampoo/ conditioner at this stage.
  2. Ensure the wound is completely dry before replacing the dressing. You may have been given a spare dressing when your child was discharged. Alternatively, dressings can be purchased from any pharmacy.

Do

  • Keep the wound covered for up to two weeks if your child picks or scratches at the wound.
  • Look for redness, worsening swelling, the wound opening up and ooze/puss (especially clear fluids as this may be cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • Call the neurosurgical clinical nurse consultant on (07) 30681384, see your GP or go to your local emergency department if you are concerned about the wound.
  • Apply paraffin/Vaseline to the wound twice a day, if it starts to look crusty. This may also help your child to curb itchiness.

Don’t

  • Apply non-recommended creams or oils to the wound.
  • Swim for six weeks post-surgery. This includes pools, fresh water dams/creeks or the ocean, which contains bacteria and is a common cause of serious wound infection.
  • Use any soaps, shampoos or conditioners on the wound for 5 days.
  • Allow long wet hair to cover the wound until it is completely healed.
  • If your child has a lower back or abdomen wound, don’t soak in a bath for six weeks, until the wound is completely healed. Your child can shower in this time.

What about the sutures?

Most surgical wounds will be closed with dissolving sutures, which are clear or white. These can take two to four weeks to dissolve. Please note that they need to be wet and patted dry before they will start to dissolve.

If they haven’t dissolved after three weeks, contact the neurosurgical clinical nurse consultant on (07) 30681384 or make an appointment at your GP to have them trimmed or removed.

Non-dissolving sutures or staples

If your child’s wound has been closed with staples, or non-dissolving sutures, which are black, blue or purple, they will be removed seven days after surgery or insertion. If you have been discharged prior to this, make an appointment with your GP to have them removed.

On occasion, a non-dissolving internal stitch may stick out of the wound. If this occurs, or you are having trouble getting an appointment or have any concerns, call the neurosurgical clinical nurse consultant on (07) 3068 1384 or your GP.

Contact us

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1384  (clinical nurse consultant)

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Resource No: F271. Developed by Department of Neurosciences. Updated: July 2017. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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