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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

How to Split a Surgical Bandage to Relieve Pressure and Pain

"This is Dr. Silvester and I’m going to show you how to split a dressing. Sometimes we have patients that after surgery, their foot swells up too much and they have a lot of pain, and so they call us and we tell them to split their dressing. This is for those kinds of patients who have too much pain after surgery. A lot of times, this will take care of most of the problem.

It’s important that you know where your surgery occurred. Let’s say, this patient had something done on the inside of her foot, so the incisions are going to be over here. You want to try to stay away from the incisions. Once in a while, they’ll have multiple incisions on the top of the foot, and so you’ll want to do the splitting down here on the bottom of the foot.

This is just a regular pair of scissors like you might have at home. The first thing you want to do is – this is a very dull pair of scissors like you may have at home, so this is a very realistic video. So, you see me splitting this dressing, and if you look, as I’m splitting the dressing, it’s popping way open, so we can tell that this one is pretty tight. See how much that popped open? That’s just the outside. That’s not complete. This is what some people do, and they’ll think, “Oh, it feels better.” But that’s not what we mean by splitting the dressing.

We want to make sure you get right down to the skin, so it’s important that you go all of the way down. I’m doing this with a terrible pair of scissors, just to show you that it can be done. Try not to have the tip of the scissors go into the patient. That’s split now. See how much that popped open? That dressing was on pretty tight.

Now, what we tell people to do is to just leave it on, you don’t need to do anything else, just take some tape, and close it up. It’s okay if it looks terrible, that’s alright, we’re just trying to get some pressure off the foot.

The danger of having a dressing on that’s too tight, is you can end up some real serious compressions sores, and a lot of delayed wound healing, and a lot of problems. If we tell you to split the dressing, make sure you watch this video and do it right. Make sure you get it split all of the way down, so that all of the pressure is off the foot so the circulation can restore itself. That’s fine – we don’t care if it looks bad like that. If you want to put some more gauze around it or something, that’s okay. All we’re after is pressure off the foot. That’s splitting a dressing, and what most people notice, if they have to do this, as soon as they’ve done this their pain level goes way down. Thank you so much for watching."