What is Dehiscence?
Dehiscence is a surgical complication where the edges of a wound no longer meet. It is also known as “wound separation.” A healthy, healing wound should be well-approximated, meaning that the edges meet neatly and are held closely together by sutures, staples or another method of closure. As an incision heals, the wound fills in with new tissue, called "granulation" or "granulating tissue." This new tissue is not as strong as normal skin, as it is new and has not had time to strengthen.
A wound is at the greatest risk of dehiscence in the first two weeks after surgery, when the wound is still fresh and very fragile. Dehiscence can be mild, where a small area of the incision begins to pull apart and leave a gap between the two sides. This can happen if a suture or staple comes free or after stress on the incision, caused by something as simple as a sneeze or cough.
In severe cases, dehiscence can cause the sutures, staples or surgical glue to completely give way and the entire incision opens from top to bottom. In these cases, the open incision is a surgical emergency and medical attention should be obtained immediately.
What to Do If Dehiscence Happens
As dehiscence can easily become evisceration, a very serious complication where the organs begin to push outside of the open incision, all instances of dehiscence should be reported to your surgeon. Even small breaks in the incision should be discussed because even a small opening is a gateway to infection and should be treated. If you can see a “hole” in your incision, then bacteria can easily enter the incision and cause serious problems.
In the short term, if you have been covering your incision with a bandage or have clean bandage supplies, cover the incision until you receive further instructions from your surgeon.