Surgical wound sites can be one of four different categorizations.

Most clinicians will be fairly communicative in terms of letting you know what type of wound you have, but the amount of scientific terms can sometimes cause concepts to be lost. While the type of care needed is the most important aspect of wound healing, it is good to know the background information on your exact wound type.

To keep things straightforward, here is a concise patient guide to different types of surgical wounds:

Clean

Also called Class I, these wounds are common in eye surgeries, small skin incisions, and vascular (blood vessels) and neurological (nervous system) procedures. To be considered a clean wound, the procedure must consist of no pre-ruptures of membranes prior to the surgery, and must not include any aspects of the digestive, urinary or respiratory tracts.

Class I wounds also consist of little to no inflammation.

Clean-contaminated

Clean-contaminated wounds, also known as Class II wounds, include any wound that is opened for drainage, as well as procedures that include the digestive, urinary and/or respiratory tracts, yet are entered without causing a lot of trauma to the tract. Other Clean-contaminated wounds include procedures where an organ or part of the body has experienced a rupture (a sudden burst or break).

Some common Clean-contaminated procedures include ear surgery on an infected ear, the removal of pins or wires from previous surgeries as well as Caesarean Sections that include a rupture before the procedure is performed.

Contaminated

Contaminated wounds, which are also called Class III, do not necessarily consist of an infected wound – in many cases, the wound is considered Contaminated if it has a foreign object inside of it. Common contaminated wounds include a bullet, or a large piece of dislodged wood or metal.

This class of wounds are often visibly more inflamed than the skin around the wound site. A large amount of fluid – whether it be blood, bile or the like – is also present. Many Class III wounds are operation wounds that are a side-effect of a mistake in technique, including those that become infected with these bodily fluids.

Dirty-infected

Dirty-infected wounds are very self-explanatory: These are wounds that have become dirty and have caused the wound to be unhealthy. Also known as Class IV, these wounds can include those that were created from a dirty object, such as a rusty tool, as well as those that have come in contact with a fluid that is foreign to that part of the body, such as a fecal matter.

Class IV wounds are characterized by an infected surface, which often includes pus or other yellow/green discharge from the wound site.

Unclassified

While almost all wounds fall into one of the above four classes, there are some wounds that are deemed Unclassified by clinicians. These can be wounds that are a result of a past procedure, or are due to an internal bodily reaction to the the surgery that was unexpected.

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