Healing by Second Intention


Healing by second intention involves allowing the wound to heal by itself.  This offers a good chance to observe the wound as it heals after removal of a difficult tumor.  Experience has taught that there are certain areas of the body where nature will heal a wound nicely.  Sometimes a wound will be left to heal by second intention, with the knowledge that if the resultant scare is unacceptable, some form of reparative surgery can be performed at a later date.

If the wound is allowed to heal by itself, the dressing must be changed every day until healing is complete.  All wounds normally drain, and dressings are changed daily to absorb the drainage.  The nursing staff will teach you how to change the dressing and will give you printed instructions.

If the wound is allowed to heal by second intention, it usually heals in four to eight weeks, depending on the size of the wound and on how quickly an individual tends to heal.  When healing is well advanced, you will be permitted to stop the daily dressing changes.  You may experience a sensation of tightness (or drawing) as the wound heals but this is normal.  After several months, the tightness will resolve.

Frequently, tumors involve nerves, and may take up to a year, or even two, before feeling returns to normal, or near normal.  Occasionally the area stays numb permanently.  The skin that grows over the wound contains many more blood vessels than the skin that was removed.  This results in a red scar and the area may be sensitive to temperature changes (such as cold air).  This sensitivity improves over time, and the redness gradually fades.

Patients frequently experience itching after their wounds have healed.  This occurs because the new skin that covers the area does not have as many oil glands as previously existed.  Plain petroleum jelly will help relieve the itching.