Surgical wound healing is a complex process that you can take steps to improve throughout your recovery.
Once you have undergone surgery and are on the road to recovery, you may wonder, “How does the body heal itself?” Developing a basic understanding of the healing process can help you take appropriate measures to support your body while it heals. The time it takes for surgical wound healing varies from person-to-person depending on your age, hygiene, nutrition, and the type of surgery.
Initial Stage of Surgical Wound Healing
Surgical wound healing takes place in stages that you can use as a guide to determine if your wound is healing properly. Depending on your health at the time of the surgery, the typical process for initial wound healing can take on average about six days:
- Immediately after incision by the surgeon, the blood will start to clot to help stop the bleeding.
- Once the blood is allowed to clot, it will dry and create a scab, which protects the exposed tissue from being infected.
- After a scab forms, your immune system is activated to protect your wound from infection.
- Your wound will become swollen, tender, and either pink or red in color.
- A clear fluid that is a self-cleaning mechanism may also form and leak from around the wound.
- Blood vessels in the area begin to open, bringing nutrients and oxygen into the area, which are vital for healing wounds.
- White blood cells flock to the infection site to fight off germs and help repair the wound.
You may be curious about what you can do to enhance the ability of your body to heal itself. You can make sure that you are eating a proper diet of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. You can also start a yoga or meditation practice, depending on the type and location of the surgery. Both of these habits have been found to enhance wound healing.
Growth and Rebuilding
Now that the body has fought off possible infections, the healing process begins to speed up over the next several weeks during the proliferative phase:
- Your body repairs broken blood vessels while simultaneously growing new tissue.
- Collagen production begins within red blood cells where tough, white fibers form tight cross-links to other collagen, establishing the foundation of the newly created tissue.
- Granulation tissue, which is collagen-rich tissue composed of newly grown capillaries, begins to fill the wound.
Throughout this process of growth and rebuilding, the perimeter of the wound is pulled inward and becomes much smaller as new skin forms over the granulation tissue. If there is a concern about the wound, you should discuss with your doctor or clinician.
Scarring and Strengthening
Now that the granulation tissue has filled the wound and new skin begins to grow, healing continues with a scar forming and the strengthening of the new tissue. The area may become itchy as the wound approaches the scarring phase. If the scab falls off, the area under it will likely be red or pink. A scar will form that is smaller than the original wound, as the edges were pulled in. Some scars will fade and disappear over time, but some will never go away.