How to Relieve Pressure from a Tight Surgical Dressing

Your surgical bandage is designed to keep the incision clean and dry, and it may also be immobilizing specific joints in protected positions.

Although you may be having discomfort from the surgery, the bandage should not be uncomfortable itself. In other words, your fingers should not be puffy or blue, and you should be able to slip your finger under the bandage both at its end near your elbow and at its end near your fingertips.

If your fingers look like balloons or sausages rather than fingers, if they are cold or blue at the tips, or if you cannot easily slide a finger under the edges of the bandage at sites away from the incision, then your bandage needs loosening. This is best done after a phone call with a doctor, in which case the photographs only reinforce what the doctor described.

It is easiest of somebody helps you. The key element is to split the bandage ALL THE WAY along its length and ALL THE WAY down to skin. When finished, you need to be able to see your skin from the tip of a finger all the way to your shoulder.

If you cut only part way down through the dressing or if you cut only part of the way along its length, the bandage will continue to act as a tourniquet and your swelling and discomfort will likely persist or increase.

So, rest your bandage on a desk or table top.

If your surgery was on the palm side of your hand or forearm, place your palm on the table and split the bandage open on the fingernail side of your hand and forearm.

If your surgery was on the fingernail side of your hand or forearm, place the back of your hand on the table and split the bandage open on the palm side of your hand and forearm.

You may have a plaster strip in your bandage. If so, feel where its borders are and cut along side it, not through it.

Once you have split the bandage completely through from end to end, it will gap open 1/2 - 1". Don't worry, it won't fall off because you are resting your hand and the bandage on the desk or table top. Opening the bandage like this is analogous to unfastening your belt a notch or two to improve comfort after a large meal or to loosening your shoestrings.

Now wrap some tape around the bandage without completely cinching the bandage closed. Any sort of tape will work: adhesive, masking, duct, etc, etc..

Continue to keep your hand elevated when you are not using it. In a day or so as the swelling subsides and the bandage begins to feel loose, overwrap it with more tape to snug it up. This is analogous to tightening up your belt a notch or to snugging your shoestrings.

If you still have concerns, contact the office or visit an emergency room.