Elements Skin Cancer Clinic

What to expect after skin surgery

After surgery you will be left with a surgical wound. This wound will have been repaired in one of the following ways:

  • closure of the wound, or part of the wound, with stitches that remain in place for approximately 5-14 days
  • other skin closures, such as a graft, flaps, or reconstructive procedures
  • healing by spontaneous granulation i.e. allowing the wound to heal itself; this takes about 4-8 weeks and requires daily dressing changes

All surgery carries risks and complications. These may include bruising, swelling, bleeding, infection, numbness, scarring, and skin tightening or stretching. Most of these problems will resolve with time, however you will always be left with a scar.

Swelling and bruising are very common, especially when surgery is performed around the eyes and nose. Swelling can be alleviated by keeping your head elevated for the first 48 hours and by using ice-packs regularly for the first 24 hours following surgery. If redness and pain don’t subside within two days, or if the wound begins to drain or discharge, you may have an infection and you should contact your doctor .

Occasionally, nerve damage can occur, however it is usually temporary. It can be permanent if the cancer is extensive and the nerve is involved.

Scarring from the surgery usually settles well. Flaps and grafts take time to heal and improve significantly within 3–6 months. Sometimes the extent of skin cancer and the complexity of the wound may require a larger reconstruction that may result in a more obvious scar.

Your post-operative care will be thoroughly explained to you.

Pain You will feel some discomfort after your surgery. We request that instead of taking aspirin or disprin, use Panadol or Panadeine for pain relief.

Bleeding     This occurs occasionally following surgery. If this should happen, the bleeding can be controlled by the use of pressure. Leave the dressing in place and apply pressure with a gauze or similar pad. You may support yourself against a couple of pillows in a semi-upright position and apply constant pressure over the bleeding site for 20 minutes.

Swelling     This is common around the surgical site. It can be minimised by applying ice packs (or frozen peas) on the area for 10 minutes, every hour for up to 24 hours after surgery.

Wound care You will be given instructions on how to care for your wound and when to have your sutures to be removed. You may be asked to return to the clinic to have your wound checked.

Sporting activities/travel     It is best to rest the surgical area for at least one week to prevent post-operative complications. We also advise that you do not undertake strenuous exercise for at least one week or more after your sutures have been removed.