Good nutrition makes the healing process possible, explained Jeff Nelson, PhD, senior research scientist at Abbott specializing in wound healing, and prioritizing certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals in your diet are needed for recovery. But how does this work? And what happens to our bodies during surgery recovery?
We sat down with Nelson to learn the answers to these questions, as well as how getting the right nutrition can aid incision healing.
How Do Our Bodies Heal Surgical Incision Wounds?
The wounds we sustain after a surgery or an injury that breaks the skin are classified as acute wounds, Nelson explained. A burn is also considered an acute wound.
Chronic wounds, alternatively, are those that don’t show improved healing by approximately 30 days, such as pressure injuries or foot ulcers stemming from issues including immobility and diabetes. Often older adults in long-term care facilities experience pressure injuries, also known as bed sores. Chronic wounds can lead to further complications and require additional care.
Nelson shares the perfect analogy for what happens when wounds start to heal: "I think of it as a house on fire."
First, as you come out of surgery, the inflammation stage starts. Specialized cells move to the incision site, working to stop the bleeding and mitigate excessive cell damage — just like firefighters rushing to a burning building to quench its flames.
Cell proliferation starts about a week later. Here, your body begins "clearing out the rubble," as he explains, and sending materials like collagen to prep the incision site for rebuilding. Around the two-week mark, wounds start to fill in with new tissue so that ultimately the wound can close and new skin can form.
It usually takes about a month for acute wounds to close up, and up to a year for the complete recovery depending on the type and extent of the wound.
What Factors Influence Healing After a Surgery?
How quickly and efficiently your body recovers after surgery depends on several factors, from the type and size of incision to your overall health and nutrition status. In general, the larger the wound, the longer the recovery process. And if surgery was performed in the context of a significant tissue injury, such as with burns, car accidents or falls, the healing process may also be longer, explained Nelson.