What are the Different Types of Surgical Incisions?

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  • Written By: Christina Hall
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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There are hundreds of different types of surgical incisions, and they are often customized for a patient’s unique needs for surgery. The different variations of surgical incisions are based on what structures the surgeon needs to operate on and examine. Most types of incisions are designed to gain access to specific organ systems, the most common being the organs found in the torso. The different types of surgical incisions are often named after the surgeon who designed them or after the anatomical structures that they display. Surgical incisions are most effective when they follow the natural lines of tension in the human anatomy, called Langer’s lines.

One of the most common types of incisions is the midline incision. This incision is the most common incision used to open up the abdominal cavity during surgery. It is a vertical incision that follows the line of the linea alba. There are different versions of the midline incision which include the upper midline incision, which usually goes from the xiphoid process to the umbilicus, and the lower midline incision, which is a cut from underneath the umbilicus to the pubic symphysis. These incisions tend to provide the most unfettered access to organ and soft tissue structure within the abdominal cavity and heal relatively easily.


Another type of surgical incision is called the Pfannenstiel incision. It is most well-known for its application in Caesarian section (C-section) surgery performed when there are complications with child birth and labor. It is also the most common incision used to gain access to any of the organs found in the pelvis. The Pfannenstiel incision is a horizontal incision that is located about 2 inches (5 cm) above the pubic symphysis, and it measures about 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length. This incision has been improved over the years and is used most often for hysterectomy surgery as well as C-section surgery because it leaves a relatively small scar.

Kocher’s incision is an incision that is utilized in procedures for the liver, gall bladder and biliary tract. It is an oblique incision that is made in the upper right or left quadrant of the abdomen. This area is just below the lower margin of the ribcage. Kocher’s incisions are often made on the right side because they are the most common incision made in surgery to remove the gall bladder. It has several advantages, one of the most prominent being that it offers the surgeon a wide view of all the structures in this area.


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Post 2

I had a c-section with one of pregnancies, and had what is called a bikini cut incision. I was a little worried about this, because it seems that my body always forms a lot of scar tissue from cuts and incisions.

I had a previous surgical incision infection when I had my gall bladder removed. Even though getting an infection at the incision site is not uncommon, it really is uncomfortable and seems to slow down the healing process.

It seems like many surgeries now can be performed with a laparoscope, which is much less invasive and the recovery time is much quicker than if they have to make a long incision.

Post 1

When I was hospitalized and had my appendix removed, they did an abdominal surgical incision that goes from my belly button down.

When I went in for surgery, they did not not know for sure what was wrong so had to open me up so they could see what was going on.

My appendix had burst and they thought that was the problem, but they did not know for sure. It seemed to take a long time to heal from that incision. I was sore for a long time and didn't get back on my feet as quickly as I thought I would.

I also remember how much the incision would itch. Even for many months after the surgery, the incision area would really be itchy.

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