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Search Health Information    Swelling After a Medical Procedure

Swelling After a Medical Procedure

Some people experience swelling as a reaction to or a side effect from a medical treatment or surgery. Swelling from a medical treatment may be related to receiving extra fluids (such as IV fluid) for the procedure, or to a substance (such as dye) used during the procedure.

Your doctor may give you instructions on how to treat swelling after a medical procedure. Be sure to follow those instructions.

Swelling may occur:

  • At an intravenous (IV) site. Some swelling and bruising at an intravenous (IV) site is common. Most IV sites heal quickly in a few days. If a large amount of swelling occurs, the swelling may put some pressure on nerves and cause pain or numbness and tingling. Swelling may also mean an infection—whenever there is a break in the skin, there is a risk of an infection. An IV site can become infected, and any signs of infection should be discussed with your doctor.
  • After surgery.
    • Depending on the site of surgery, bleeding after surgery may not be visible, but you may notice increased swelling in the surgical area.
    • After surgery, an incision may have increased swelling from a buildup of a yellowish fluid (serum). Skin wounds often collect serum as part of the normal healing process.
    • Most surgical incisions heal well, and some swelling at the site of surgery is normal. But whenever there is a break in the skin, there is a risk of an infection. If swelling increases and signs of infection develop, call your doctor.
    • If a splint, wrap, or cast was applied too tightly after surgery, this might cause swelling. New or increased swelling of the affected area that is accompanied by severe pain may mean compartment syndrome , especially if cold, pale skin and numbness or tingling has developed. This is a serious complication that needs emergency medical treatment.
  • From cancer treatment. Radiation therapy may cause body fluid to collect near the treated area. Also, swelling can occur after lymph nodes have been removed during surgery for cancer; this is called lymphedema . Lymphedema usually occurs near the treated area.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised April 2, 2012

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