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A skin lesion is an area of the skin that is different from the surrounding skin. This can be a lump, sore, or an area of skin that is not normal. It may also be a skin cancer or a noncancerous (benign) tumor.
You have had a skin lesion removal. This is a procedure to remove the lesion for examination by a pathologist or to prevent recurrence of the lesion.
You may have sutures or just a small open wound.
It is important to take care of the site. This helps prevent infection and allows the wound to heal properly.
How to Care for Stitches
Stitches are special threads that are sewn through the skin at an injury site to bring the edges of a wound together. Care for your stitches and wound as follows:
- Keep the area covered for the first 24 to 48 hours after stitches have been placed.
- After 24 to 48 hours, gently wash the site with cool water and soap. Pat dry the site with a clean paper towel.
- Your health care provider may recommend the application of petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment on the wound.
- If there was a bandage over the stitches, replace it with a new clean bandage.
- Keep the site clean and dry by washing it 1 to 2 times daily.
- Your provider should tell you when to come back to get the stitches removed. If not, contact your provider.
How to Care for an Open Wound
If your provider does not close your wound again with sutures, you need to care for it at home. The wound will heal from the bottom up to the top.
You may be asked to keep a dressing over the wound, or your provider may suggest leaving the wound open to air.
Keep the site clean and dry by washing it 1 to 2 times a day. You will want to prevent a crust from forming or being pulled off. To do this:
- Your provider may suggest using petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment on the wound.
- If there is a dressing and it sticks to the wound, wet it and try again, unless your provider instructed you to pull it off dry.
Do not use skin cleansers, alcohol, peroxide, iodine, or soap with antibacterial chemicals. These can damage the wound tissue and slow healing.
The treated area may look red afterwards. A blister will often form within a few hours. It may appear clear or have a red or purple color.
You may have a little pain for up to 3 days.
Most of the time, no special care is needed during healing. The area should be washed gently once or twice a day and kept clean. A bandage or dressing should only be needed if the area rubs against clothes or may be easily injured.
A scab forms and will usually peel away on its own within 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the area treated. Do not pick the scab off.
The following tips may help:
- Prevent the wound from re-opening by keeping strenuous activity to a minimum.
- Make sure your hands are clean when you care for the wound.
- If the wound is on your scalp, it is OK to shampoo and wash. Be gentle and avoid a lot of exposure to water.
- Take proper care of your wound to prevent further scarring.
- You can take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, as directed for pain at the wound site. Ask your provider about other pain medicines (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) to make sure they will not cause bleeding.
- Follow-up with your provider to make sure the wound is healing properly.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider right away if:
- There is any redness, pain, or yellow pus around the injury. This could mean there is an infection.
- There is bleeding at the injury site that will not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
- You have a fever greater than 100°F (37.8°C).
- There is pain at the site that will not go away, even after taking pain medicine.
- The wound has split open.
- Your stitches or staples have come out too soon.
After full healing has taken place, call your provider if the skin lesion does not appear to be gone.
Addison P. Plastic surgery including common skin and subcutaneous lesions. In: Garden OJ, Parks RW, eds. Principles and Practice of Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 18.
Dinulos JGH. Dermatologic surgical procedures. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 27.
Newell KA. Wound closure. In: Richard Dehn R, Asprey D, eds. Essential Clinical Procedures. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 32.
Review Date: 5/31/2022
Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.