Should Hydrogen Peroxide Be Used In After Surgery Wound Care?

Q: Dr. Eppley, How should I take care of my incisions and sutures after surgery? I had eyelid surgery yesterday and my doctor did not give my any directions as to how to take care of them. My friend told me I should clean them every day with hydrogen peroxide and then apply ointment. Is this correct?

A: After surgery wound care is frequently misunderstood. Hydrogen peroxide has been historically used and is still recommended as a wound agent for sutures lines. However, it is important to recognize when and how to use it to avoid adverse healing and scarring effects. Hydrogen peroxide can help remove small clots on suture lines which develop right after surgery due to its effervescent bubbling action. (the effect of catalase) Using a Q-tip several times a day right after surgery to get the blood clots off suture lines is beneficial as these blood clots are a potential breeding ground for bacteria.  However once there are no more clots on the suture lines (as they should all be gone in a day or two after surgery) hydrogen peroxide should not be used. It has been shown hydrogen peroxide applied to wounds can actually impede their healing and lead to increased scarring as it destroys newly formed skin cells.  Once the clots are gone only topical ointments should be used to aid in the healing and protection of new skin cells so that complete re-epitheliazation across the wound can occur.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana