What Is a T Incision?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 21 May 2019
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A T incision provides a surgeon with access to a site that would not be available through a single cut. It includes both horizontal and vertical incisions connected in the shape of a T, which may be upside-down, depending on location and the specifics of the procedure. Such incisions can come with increased healing time and problems for patients, so they are considered carefully. In some cases it may be necessary to use a T incision for surgical access, in which case the surgeon will exercise care to make it as non-invasive as possible.

Vertical or horizontal incisions alone sometimes don’t expose as much of the surgical area as the surgeon needs to see. The T incision allows a surgeon to create skin flaps that can be retracted to visualize the area and safely operate. Some locations where such incisions might be necessary can include joints for orthopedic surgery, the chest for certain procedures, and the abdomen for Cesarian sections as well as access to various abdominal organs.


When surgeons make a cut, they consider the healing process after surgery. If it is poorly placed, this can increase the risk that the underlying fibrous tissues will rupture later, because the incision may weaken them. With a T incision, one of the cuts is likely to be along a line that may rupture later, which can increase the risk of complications. A classical example can be seen with an inverted T incision used in some types of Cesarian section, where a vertical cut into the uterus can increase the risk that it will rupture in future pregnancies.

After a procedure is over, the surgeon will carefully close the T incision and apply a bandage. Drains may need to be included, if necessary. While in the hospital, wound care may be managed by a nurse or wound specialist who checks the drains, changes dressings, and cleans the wound. Patients may also be encouraged to get physically active as soon as possible to prevent clotting. Once home, patients may need to care for their incisions on their own, following directions provided by a surgeon.

Redness, swelling, sharp pain, or heat around a T incision may be signs of infection or rupture. Patients can call their surgeons to discuss these symptoms and determine if they need evaluation. There’s also a risk of wound dehiscence, where the surgical site starts to gape open, exposing the tissue underneath. If this occurs, the wound needs to be closed again, with care to preserve tissue and avoid a repeat incident.



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