Bleeding After Surgery: Care Instructions

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After surgery, it is common to have some minor bruising or bleeding from the cut (incision) made by your doctor. But problems may occur that cause you to bleed too much in the surgery area.

An injury to a blood vessel can cause bleeding after surgery. Other causes include medicines such as aspirin or anticoagulants (blood thinners).

Your doctor examined you to find the cause of the bleeding. You may have had imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound.

To help stop the bleeding, your doctor may have put pressure on the incision or sewn up or cauterized (sealed) the incision. Or you may have had surgery to stop bleeding inside the surgery area. Your doctor also may have given you medicines that help stop the bleeding.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape. Keep the area dry at all times.
  • You will have a dressing over the incision. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you do not have tape on the incision, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • If the area is bleeding, draining fluid, or rubbing against clothing, you may want to cover it with a gauze bandage. Change the bandage every day and if it gets wet.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have bleeding that starts again or gets worse, such as soaking one or more bandages over 2 to 4 hours, even after holding pressure on the area.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.