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When to Shower after Surgery?

One of the most common questions patients have is when can they get their incision wet after a surgery?  The same question applies for laceration repair.

Pre-surgical instructions generally have information on how to clean before surgery.  Generally, I recommend special cleansing solutions to minimize the bacterial load a patient has prior to surgery.

So why have we been taught not to get stitches wet?  Why do hospital discharge instructions often instruct patients not to wash their surgical sites?

A Historical Holdover?
Historically, clean water is a relatively new phenomenon.  Modern medical education started around 1900, at a time when clean water was not ubiquitous.  My personal suspicion is that not getting surgical sites wet is a historical pass down from this time.  However, I have not been able to confirm this.

Practices Vary by Geographic Region
From my personal experience, there is geographic variation about when patients are told to wash their surgical sites.  During my surgical internship in Texas, patients were told to wash their wounds fairly soon after surgery.  When I was in training in Washington, D.C., patients were told to NOT wash their surgical incisions immediately.

The Medical Literature Does NOT Show Increased Infections with Washing
A prospective randomized trial published in 2006 in the British Journal of Medicine showed no difference in early washing (12 hours) vs. late washing (48 hours) of surgical sites.   Another article states early shampooing in brain surgery patients does not increase infection rates.  Another article in the Annals of Surgery in 2016 showed that patients who showered 48 hours after surgery had higher satisfaction scores and lower wound care costs than those that did not!

I Don’t Want to Step on Anybody’s Toes – Ask your Doctor
I am pretty comfortable with my suture technique.  So generally, I tell my patients to treat their surgical sites like intact skin.  I usually let patients shower as soon as they want, often the next day.  However, there are some exceptions – so ask me each time.  Furthermore, other surgeons may have different opinions, so ask your doctor!

Dr. Domanski
Curve Accent


Focusing on natural results, Dr. Domanski believes in helping patients regain control over their bodies.

Dr. Mark Domanski is a Double-Board certified Plastic Surgeon. Dr. Domanski is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

He has been recognized as a “Top Doctor” by Washingtonian Magazine, Northern Virginia Magazine and DC Modern Luxury magazine. However, Dr. Domanski’s favorite accolade is his Most Compassionate Doctor award by Patient’s Choice.

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