Patient in hospital bed asking a nurse, “Why is my operation wound not healing?”

Why Is My Operation Wound Not Healing?

The worst should be over after surgery. The team of surgeons’ job is complete, and now should be the time you can rest and heal up. Unfortunately, complications can and do arise, which may leave you asking: “Why is my operation wound not healing?” 

If you’ve found yourself asking “why is my operation wound not healing?”, we’re here to help. 

This could be due to a number of factors, and isn’t a question that can be answered simply. Why your operation wound is not healing could be due to the severity or location of your injury, or any number of barriers to wound healing, such as:

  • Infection
  • Diet
  • Mechanical/mobility damage
  • Pre-existing medical conditions & medicines
  • Age
  • Wound stage complications (necrosis, hemorrhage, poor immunological response)
  • Lifestyle choices (smoking, alcohol)

Today we will take a closer look at some of these possible reasons for why your operation wound is not healing. But first, it’s important for you to understand what a healthy healing response looks like, so you can compare your own wound healing journey against it. 

Step-by-step wound healing

There are four clear steps to the natural wound healing process. Let’s quickly get up to speed with the characteristics of each phase:

Hemostasis Phase

Immediate damage is mitigated through coagulation to stop blood loss. This creates a temporary, emergency barrier to protect the wound area.

Inflammatory Phase

The site of the wound swells to allow special white blood cells access to the wounded area to check for and eliminate bacterial threats to the body. The body clears away debris and damaged tissues from the wound and surrounding area.

Proliferation Phase

Collagen protein fibers begin rebuilding and intertwining to close the wound effectively. The wound contracts as new collagen-rich soft tissue is grafted. 

Remodeling Phase

The collagen in wound healing matures to provide more permanent security to the wound. The successful completion of this stage leaves scar tissue, which is one of the good signs of wound healing and which the body will continue to upkeep over time.

How long should wound healing take?

An acute wound generally takes four weeks or less to heal completely. 

An acute wound is a wound that passes through all four of the healing phases, finishing with a near-complete restructure of the previously affected area. 

The concern for patients asking “why is my operation wound not healing?” is that they have developed a chronic wound; where the healing process has stalled in one of the phases of wound healing, and cannot move on to the next one. This is a particular concern for people with diabetes (as diabetes slows wound healing) and/or those who have had major surgery.

If you are still asking “why is my operation wound not healing?”, and your surgery was over a month ago, you may have a chronic wound. 

Your doctor should outline a timetable for the stages of your wound recovery, so you know when to expect swelling and inflammation to go down, or stitches to be removed, etc. If they haven’t provided you with such information, you may want to reach out to them to check, especially if you are concerned about why your operation wound is not healing. 

Pay attention to your body’s needs and inform your doctor if you suspect any symptoms of infection, or if your wound healing delays longer than the timeline that they prescribed. There are a range of treatments they may recommend, as well as more tips on what to do if a wound won’t heal.

The correct approach to wound management will depend heavily on why your operation wound is not healing. So, before we can get into how to treat a wound that won’t heal, let’s discuss some possible reasons why your operation wound is not healing in the first place. 

Why is my operation wound not healing?: 10 possible causes

Remember your doctor is your go-to point of call for questions and concerns about your wound, but it’s important that you are able to identify symptoms of a wound not healing, as well as some possible causes for why your operation wound is not healing

These are possible causes of chronic wounds that you can discuss with your doctor: 

1. Infection

Avoiding infection is among the biggest and most immediate concerns of any health professional dealing with a wound, whether big or small. The answer to the question “why is my operation wound not healing?” is often connected to infection and immunological response.

An infection taking hold over a wound site will be noticed by the immune system, and the collagen rebuilding effort won’t be given the all-clear to begin proliferation or remodeling under these conditions

Why is infection so prevalent in wounds? 

A wound site is an open invitation for invasive bacteria to take advantage of your weakened body. The immune system is equipped with a variety of tools to locate and eliminate threats, but they are not always successful. 

If you have a fever, swelling, and redness that won’t go away, or are leaking thick, foul-smelling discharge from your wound, there is a good chance that it is infected. Any symptoms of infection, from digestive concerns to nausea, should be recorded and your doctor should be informed. Fast action to clear away infection is the best way to get your wound recovery back on track.

2. Necrosis

Necrosis occurs when you don’t get enough blood flow to an area of your body, causing the skin tissue to die out. It can also be caused by an infection with a flesh-eating bacterial strain like Staphylococcus aureus. 

The symptoms of necrosis include:

  • Intense pain at (and surrounding) the wound site
  • Tingling or loss of sensation around the wound
  • Skin redness and swelling
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Skin discoloration
  • Grayish discharge

If the necrosis is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will probably put you on antibiotics to assist with wound healing, but an additional surgical procedure could be required to clear out dead tissue cells if your body isn’t responding to treatment. 

3. Continuous inflammation

Some inflammation is good and even necessary during the post-surgery recovery process. But sometimes, your body’s healing signals get crossed and you get stuck in a continuous state of inflammation. This could be due to stress, a nutritional imbalance, an underlying condition, or a number of other issues. 

If your wound is trapped in the inflammation stage, it won’t move on to proliferation and remodeling, leaving you stuck wondering “why is my operation wound not healing?”

Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories or other medications to help you out of this healing phase. 

4. Varicose veins

To supply the wound site with the collagen protein it needs, the wound site needs to be efficiently connected to the circulatory system. Veins that are close to the surface of the skin, can become unhelpfully twisted or enlarged as collateral damage to an injury. 

These are called varicose veins.

Altered conditions to these blood vessels may interfere with blood pressure and the movement of nutrients, and may be a reason why your operation wound is not healing as planned.

5. Dryness

Many wounds require a slightly moist environment to heal properly. Studies have shown that moist wounds can heal up to 50% faster than dry ones, so if your wound has been uncovered and is dried out, that may be the reason why your operation wound is not healing.  

Wound dressings that keep healing wounds moist, proper hydration, and supplements such as liquid collagen are some of the wound care solutions to be aware of.

6. Age

Age plays a factor in wound healing and recovery. A principal reason for this is that the human body begins to decrease collagen production as early as in your 20s. 

Thankfully, collagen can also be refueled in our bodies through diet or supplementation. Hydrolyzed liquid protein for wound healing is popular because of how readily the body can absorb and synthesize collagen in this bioavailable form. 

7. Pre-existing conditions 

We’ve briefly mentioned that diabetes wound healing comes with additional considerations for a recovering patient, particularly if the operation wound is large or in a difficult-to-heal location. Your medical health professional will take into account diabetes or other pre-existing conditions such as anemia when providing you with a timeline for recovery. 

Considering that your body pulls on so many resources during recovery, any compromise the body is already making through a deficiency in nutrients or resources can have an effect on the ability to recover from wounds efficiently.

8. Smoking and alcohol 

Again, your body is making an extraordinary, albeit often silent, effort to heal your wounds and get you back to normal after an operation. So it will come as little surprise that activities that damage your body such as smoking or alcohol consumption will put a further strain on your body's ability to repair itself quickly and efficiently. 

If you are wondering “why is my operation wound not healing?”, it may be worth talking to your doctor about quitting smoking temporarily (or permanently) to assist in wound healing. 

9. Mechanical damage 

Avoiding strain on the wounded area of your body can be a very tricky consideration to manage. It goes without saying that the site of your surgical wound has lost the structural integrity that it once had, and until collagen protein is successfully remodeled in the final stage of wound healing, a wound site is simply not ready for any strain from external factors.

What does this mean? 

Just as an athlete returning to their sport too early is at much higher risk of re-injuring a wound, so are you at risk when resuming everyday activities after a serious operation. Even gentle stretching in day-to-day activities should be carefully considered.

Confusingly, however, too little movement can also cause problems for some types of wound recovery. A person who is completely immobile is at risk of bedsores and may then need additional pressure ulcer treatment

10. Improper nutrition

A major reason patients ask, “why is my operation wound not healing?” could warrant a careful look at their post-surgery diet. Your body needs a lot more calories - particularly protein - than usual while it’s recovering. For example: the demand for collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body, skyrockets as it’s a major structural player not just for the skin, but also for organs, ligaments, and blood vessels. 

Important: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you aren’t burning as many calories just because you are immobile in recovery. Health professionals and nutritionists generally recommend an increase in caloric intake during the recovery phase. 

Slow wound healing after surgery may come down to the body simply having a lack of resources to get on with the work that it needs to. If you are experiencing slow healing after surgery, you may want to talk with your doctor about medical nutrition therapy. 

Regardless of any underlying conditions or infections you are dealing with, a wound healing diet can play a beneficial role in how to treat a wound that won’t heal. Of course, this should be undertaken in conjunction with any medications or instructions from your health provider. 

How to help an operation wound heal faster through diet

The first step to an effective post-surgery diet is knowing that a general caloric surplus is beneficial to your recovery process. That being said, calories are not created equal. Some nutrition is much more relevant to avoiding slow healing after surgery.

What can I eat to make my wound heal fasterThe short answer is: Put collagen protein first.

After surgery, your body needs to focus on collagen synthesis, which is one of the main components of wound healing. If you aren’t getting ample protein from your diet for proper collagen synthesis, then that could be why your operation wound is not healing. 

In addition to protein, you can eat more fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C, which also supports collagen absorption and effectiveness. 

That being said, the swiftest and simplest way to introduce more collagen into your body is with a daily collagen supplement. A high-quality, easy-to-use, medical-grade collagen product like ProT Gold liquid collagen is a great option for boosting your body’s levels of wound healing collagen. 

ProT Gold collagen products are nano-hydrolyzed, which means the protein has been broken down into easy to digest pieces that your body can completely absorb in just 15 minutes or less. Our liquid and powder collagen is low-calorie, safe for diabetics, FDA-approved for medical nutrition, and proven to help heal operation wounds. 

Ask your doctor today how collagen supplements can help get your wound healing back on track. 

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