One of the questions that patients often have is when it is safe to submerge the surgical incision underwater after joint replacement surgery (such as taking a bath, going in a pool/hot tub) In this blog post, we will discuss the various factors that can affect the healing process and when it is safe to submerge the surgical incision underwater after joint replacement surgery.
- Healing time : The healing time for a joint replacement surgery can vary depending on the type of surgery, the patient's overall health, and the care of the surgical incision. The surgical incision will need to be fully healed before submerging it underwater. This usually takes between 2-6 weeks after surgery. You will be able to see the healing process, by the color and the feel of the incision. It should be dry, sealed and have no redness or swelling, before submerging it in water. It's important to follow the surgeon's instructions regarding the healing time and to wait until the incision is fully healed before submerging it underwater.
- Suture removal : The surgical incision is often closed with sutures or staples that need to be removed before submerging the incision underwater. The timing of suture removal can vary depending on the type of surgery and the surgeon's instructions; this is typically done between 2-4 weeks after surgery. It's important to wait until the sutures or staples are removed before submerging the incision underwater.
- Wound care : Proper wound care is essential for the healing process. It's important to keep the surgical incision clean and dry and to avoid submerging it in water until it is fully healed. The incision should be covered with a waterproof bandage when showering or bathing to keep it dry for the first few weeks. Ask your surgeon if the bandage you have after surgery is waterproof.
- Signs of infection : If you notice any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge, it's important to contact your surgeon immediately as submerging the incision in water can worsen the infection.
- Rehabilitation : It's important to follow the rehabilitation protocol provided by your surgeon and physical therapist. Submerging the incision in water can be part of the rehabilitation process but only after the incision is fully healed and the surgeon has given the approval. You also want to make sure that you have enough strength and mobility in the operative limb before you go in to the water.
- Risks : submerging the incision underwater before it has fully healed can cause the incision to reopen or to become infected. This can delay the healing process and increase the risk of complications.
Submerging the surgical incision underwater after joint replacement surgery should be avoided until the incision is fully healed. There are many germs/bacteria in the water, if your incision is not fully healed, they can find their way in and infect your new joint. Most surgeons typically recommend waiting at least 6 weeks before submerging the incision underwater. I let patients shower and get their dressing wet the day after surgery (or whenever they feel comfortable enough to go in the shower. I remove the dressing at 2 weeks and keep the incision open to air. During this time showering and having running water go over the incision is okay. I wait until 6 weeks after surgery before letting patients submerge their incision site. It's important to follow your surgeon's instructions regarding the healing time, proper wound care, and rehabilitation protocol. If you notice any signs of infection, it's important to contact your surgeon immediately.