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What Are the Common Reasons for an Incision Not Healing?

By A. Reed
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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For some people, it has been observed that surgical wounds do not heal as they should and, although many reasons exist for an incision not healing, some of the most typical causes tend to be related to infections and medical conditions such as diabetes. Sometimes wounds refuse to heal as a result of the effects of certain drugs that are frequently used to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus. Proper nourishment is a must in order for incisions to heal efficiently, as vitamins A and C are directly involved in the biological processes of healing and the repair of tissues. Deficiencies in such nutrients are common causes of ineffectual wound healing, particularly in those who are chronically ill.

Wound infections are frequently the culprit for an incision not healing due to the presence of pathogens, microorganisms which are responsible for causing infectious diseases. Even though microorganisms are always present within surgical incisions and upon the skin, these do not always cause infection in an individual; however, it is possible if conditions are ripe for increased colonization. Also, certain types of bacteria are particularly deadly, capable of rendering the body defenseless against such infections. For example, sepsis or bacteremia refers to a critical infectious condition in which bacteria enters the blood, causing a systemic infection affecting the entire body. Particularly resistant strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, enterobacter, and enterococci make healing especially problematic as standard antibiotic treatment typically has no effect on such microbes.

​Certain disease processes contribute to an incision not healing. Diabetes mellitus, the condition which causes large amounts of sugar to remain in the blood, has several implications that tend to prevent efficient healing of wounds, particularly affecting circulatory system function and immunity. Medical disorders known for causing the body to attack its own tissues and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus make wound healing a trying process, primarily due to taking immunosuppressant drugs over an extended period. It is not uncommon for people to suffer from both diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, which especially adds to the difficulties of an incision not healing.

In people with nutritional deficiencies, healing of incisions will be slow or virtually non-existent. Abundantly present in carrots and sweet potatoes, vitamin A is required by the body for the production of epithelial cells, proper nourishment of the mucosa, and immune system functioning, all of which are vital to healing processes. As vitamin A deficiency is mostly seen among people who live in the developing world, it is also often present in those with long-term illnesses and the aged within developed countries such as the United States. Vitamin C is important for enhancing the function of enzymes, especially those involved in the production and repair of collagen, the protein responsible for scar tissue formation.

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Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On Sep 07, 2014

@mobilian33 - I feel badly for your sister. Staph infections are not uncommon in hospitals and they can be very serious. One reason they are more common and harder to get rid of than they were at one time is because doctors prescribe so many antibiotics and the germs grow immune to them. As the article says, infections are often the reason for wounds that won't heal after surgery.

By mobilian33 — On Sep 07, 2014

My sister had a cyst under her arm. She thought it might be cancer, but it wasn't. Once she found out it wasn't cancer she wasn't too worried about it, but her family told her she should have it removed because the surgery was simple and she wouldn't have to be self conscious about the growth.

The surgery went well and the knot was gone. After a few days the area where the knot was turned red and she was having pain there. Then she went back to the doctor, and after a lot of waiting and guessing they told her she had a staph infection.

Well, she will be the first to tell you that the infection was 10 times worst than the cyst. She got skin sores under her arm and she was sick with a fever. They gave her penicillin but that didn't work. They ended up giving her a lot of antibiotics before she was finally back to normal.

By Feryll — On Sep 06, 2014

I knew a guy in school who had diabetes. We played basketball together at the gym sometimes. He would get a simple scratch that most of us wouldn't even take notice of, and he would leave the court in the middle of a game to make sure the skin was disinfected and then he would cover the spot with a bandage of some kind. We would give him a hard time about being a wimp, until we found out why he was so cautious. After we found out he had the disease we felt like jerks, at least I did.

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