Postoperative Incisional Pain

Pain in and around your incision may last for up to several weeks, but it should gradually get better as the days progress. Horizontal or "thoracotomy" incisions generally take longer to feel totally normal because of the location of the incision and the amount of muscle tissue that is divided during the surgery. Most patients can also expect to have some degree of numbness in and around the incision for several months. You may also have some episodes of sharp pain in and around your incision that lasts only a minute or two. This is due to nerves that have been stretched during surgery that then return to their normal shape.

Caring for Your Incision

Your incisions are closed with dissolvable sutures, and the chest tube site suture may be left in place until you return to visit your surgeon for your first postoperative visit. The "Steri-Strips" may eventually fall off by themselves; if they don't fall off within two weeks, you should peel them off (like Band-Aids) and leave your incision exposed to the air.

There is no need to apply any special "wash" or antiseptic to your incisions. Your normal soap and water is the best thing to speed wound healing. Do NOT apply any vitamin E cream or cocoa butter to your incisions until they are totally healed. It is best to wait until your first postoperative visit with your surgeon to ask about applying any creams.

You may notice that your chest tube site(s) may ooze a little bit. Do not be alarmed! This is part of the normal way in which your body heals. Simply keep the site clean with soap and water and place a Band-Aid or small dressing over it to keep it clean and prevent staining of your clothes. This should dry up in a week or two. Let the site scab over and dry out.