Pus in wound after surgery

pus is also called purulent drainage. It is the general term for a viscous, usually white fluid that collects at the source of infection. Pus can appear around a variety of infections, but is especially worrisome after surgery.

Drainage that appears in the incision can be a sign of infection, but not all drainage is pus. Still, it can be a shocking thing to see at your surgical incision.

This article discusses pus in surgical incisions. It also looks at ways to treat post-operative infections.

pus explained

Pus is made of:

  • dead tissue
  • white blood cells
  • damaged cells

When your body fights an infection, it sends white blood cells to the source of the infection. White blood cells help stop bacteria from infecting more tissues. Pus is a by-product of this process.

When you see pus, it means your body is struggling to fight an infection. Still, it’s never a good thing when a wound becomes infected.

Pus is usually white or yellowish-white. Sometimes it can be green, bloody, blue, or in rare cases even brown. It may also have a foul odor.

When the pus becomes infected, it can appear in the surgical incision. This indicates that you need further treatment. A surgical infection can get serious quickly, so if you see pus, call your surgeon right away.

An infection that spreads and reaches the bloodstream is called sepsis. Sepsis can be life-threatening.

surgical incision drainage

Remember, there are many types of drainage, from normal to severe.

There may be a drainage that looks like pus but is actually just a normal drainage. The only way to tell the difference is to seek medical attention. This is especially important if the drainage is from a surgical wound.

Tell your surgeon right away if your surgical wound drainage smells bad.


Not all drains are pus. To be sure, see your surgeon right away.

Abscess explained

Some infections produce only a small amount of pus. In other cases, there may be a large build-up. Large amounts of pus may not always be visible because they are under the skin or deep in the incision.

One abscess Occurs when the drain is tight. Abscesses can appear on almost any part of the body. Acne whiteheads are examples of very small abscesses.

When an abscess is severe or untreated, a large amount of pus can be found. This type of abscess can start with something as simple as an infected tooth, an infected surgical incision, or even a boil on the skin.


An abscess is an infection that cannot be drained. Abscesses can occur almost anywhere on your body.

Treat wounds when pus is present

Resist the urge to scrub a surgical wound with pus. You might want the area to be as clean as possible, but that can do more harm than good. Instead, tell your surgeon that there is an infection at the surgical site. Do not clean it or try to remove the pus.

The surgeon may need to swab the area. This is for wound cultures and it helps determine the nature of the infection and which antibiotics will be most helpful.

You may need antibiotics, change your wound care regimen, or both. Usually, you’ll be given antibiotics at the first sign of infection. If cultures show that another antibiotic might work better, your doctor may have you change it.

If you can’t make an appointment right away and have to clean the area, wash gently with warm water and a mild cleanser. Rinse well. Do not scrub or use harsh cleansers, which can irritate the wound. Do not use it if it is too irritating to baby’s skin.


Surgical incisions can become infected. When this happens, pus may appear in the area. The incision can also drain normally. Your surgeon will be able to tell the difference.

Infections can get serious quickly, so notify your surgeon right away if you see anything in the incision that looks like pus. Your surgeon may swab the area to determine the nature of the infection. You may need to take antibiotics until your condition improves.

VigorTip words

Some drainage is normal after surgery, but it can be difficult to tell if the drainage is a sign of infection or just fluid.

If there is drainage from your incision, call your surgeon right away. It’s far better to call to find out that there is no need to worry than to ignore something that could become serious.

Healing and recovery from surgery