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Semi-permeable film dressings are an appropriate interactive dressing to manage surgical wound healing by primary intention, with little or no exudate. NICE does not provide guidance on when it is appropriate to leave a wound without a dressing but states "a patient can shower after 48 hours".
It is generally considered best practice to cover all surgical incisions post-procedure and, when practical, this should involve low adherence, transparent polyurethane dressings, which protect the wound and give the opportunity to check the surgical incision site for any signs of wound infection without having to disturb the dressing itself. These dressings can be left in place for between 3 and 5 days, during which time the epithelialisation process may be completed in a wound healing by primary intention.
Dressings should incorporate an integral central pad of absorbent material (island dressings) if oozing of fluid (blood or exudate) from the incision site is anticipated in the immediate postoperative phase. These island dressings combine the advantages of transparent low-adherent polyurethane film dressings while also having the ability to absorb small amounts of excess exudate, aiding the normal debridement process in the wound and help to prevent any adverse effect on healing caused by surface cooling, for example.
Reference: Prevention and Treatment of Surgical Site Infection, NICE Clinical Guideline 74