Mohs Surgery

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

How do I take care of my surgical area after Mohs surgery?

It is recommended to check with your surgeon for specific after-surgery wound-care instructions. Often, you will be asked to go home and take it easy for the rest of the day. A few patients like to return to work and resume their work the day after surgery. It may be advisable to avoid heavy lifting and exercise, especially the first 24-48 hours after surgery. Your physician will usually give you more detailed instructions depending on the area and size of the surgery. You will have usually have a bulky "pressure" dressing on the surgery area for one day. You may be asked to keep the area dry for 24 hours. Swimming pools, oceans, and Jacuzzis are usually not permitted while the stitches are in. These may increase your chance of infection. Many physicians allow you to shower the next day after surgery. Wound care may require cleaning the wound with soap or hydrogen peroxide two to three times a day and applying petroleum jelly to the area. Mild swelling is not uncommon the first day or two after surgery and can be lessened by use of an ice-bag application, ice cubes or chips in a small Ziploc baggie, or frozen peas in the bag. Leaving the dressing in place, use cold pack application every five to 15 minutes every hour for the first eight to 24 hours after surgery. Swelling is more common for surgeries around the eyes or lips. Sleeping propped up on a few pillows or in a reclining chair may help decrease swelling after surgery of the head and face area.

The surgical area may ooze a little blood or clear liquid especially in the first few hours after surgery; activity may aggravate this. Hot drinks or bending over at the waist can also initiate or worsen bleeding of face wounds. If bleeding occurs, firm pressure applied directly to the site for 10-15 minutes may be helpful. Most bleeding will stop if you apply enough pressure. Your surgeon should be notified if bleeding persists. Rarely, a visit to the hospital emergency room may be necessary for severe bleeding.

Your surgeon will need to know if pain is increasing after one to two days after your surgery or if you are having fever or other concerning symptoms. In such cases, you may need to be seen at the surgeon's office. The surgical area may need to be checked for bleeding or infection. Limiting hot foods, hot drinks, and heavy chewing for 48 hours may help decrease the chances of postoperative bleeding for wounds around the mouth or cheek areas. Your physician will explain recommended wound care.

Most patients are advised to try to avoid applying makeup or powder directly on a fresh wound unless the surface is fully healed. Skin-colored tape strips called Steri Strips are available to minimize wound leakage and help cover up a visible wound. It is important to follow your physician's instructions for wound care.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2016

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