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How to Remove Stitches

Updated on September 12, 2012

Tweezers and Sharp Scissors

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How to Remove Stitches

The medical term for stitches is sutures, and your visit to the emergency room has left you with a few of them as the result of a laceration or wound. It’s been several days since the procedure, and now it’s time to remove them—but how? Most of the time, removing stitches is a very easy procedure that is painless and only takes a few minutes. However, before you start the process of suture removal, there are certain steps to take to ensure safety and to limit the chances of complications. Although it is highly recommended that your physician remove your stitches, it can be done safely if you follow these instructions and take the appropriate precautions provided. Please read all instructions before removing your sutures.

What Kind of Sutures are Supporting the Laceration?

Sutures are made out of silk, cat-gut, plastics, and other kinds of man-made and natural materials. Similar to fishing tackle, sutures are incredibly strong, yet relatively easy to cut. Absorbable sutures are usually used in surgical procedures and dissolve after a period of time. Sutures used for lacerations in the skin are mostly made of non-absorbable material and need to be removed after the sufficient amount of time has passed and the laceration has healed.

Standard Non-Absorbable Sutures

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When You Need Your Doctor to Remove Stitches

If your sutures are the result of a surgical procedure or operation, it’s imperative that your doctor remove them and observe the post surgical area for signs of infection or complications. If your sutures are in a sensitive area, such as— close to the eye area or inside the mouth— you need to have your physician remove the sutures.

Does the Wound Look Infected?

If the wound edges have not healed or show signs of extreme redness and have a red or a yellowish pus type discharge, you need a physician to remove the sutures. Infection will inhibit healing and may stop the edges from growing back together properly. Removing the stitches in an infected or non-healing wound may reopen, bleed profusely, and require further sutures and antibiotics.

Large Steri-Strips

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Count the Knots: Six Sutures

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How Many Days old are Your Sutures?

Different parts of the body need sutures to stay in place for optimum healing times. Although your physician has given you the amount of time for your sutures to stay in place, a general idea of healing time is as follows:

· Facial Sutures: 5-7 days

· The Scalp needs: 7-10 days

· Joints: 14-16 days

· The Trunk area: 7-10 days

· Upper and lower extremities: 10-14 days

If the sutures have been in place for a longer period of time, the skin may have begun to grow over them. Do not attempt suture removal if you can’t visualize the sutures and call your doctor for help.

A Guide to Removing Stitches

The Sutures are Dry and the Edges are Healed

Gently wash the wound with a little soap and water to remove any encrusted blood or dried drainage. Pat dry and let air dry for a few minutes. Meanwhile, assemble your equipment and prepare to remove the sutures.

Gather Your Equipment for Suture Removal and Sterilize Them

Although sterilization means to remove all bacteria and viruses, that’s not completely possible in a home environment. Wash all utensils then rinse them in alcohol and allow air drying. This process is sufficient for home use.

1. Small Sharp scissors

2. Tweezers

3. Gauze or clean cotton balls

4. Steri-Strip closures or band-Aids

Locate the Individual Sutures and Gently Pull with Tweezers

Each suture is an individual stitch and can be identified by the knot. For instance, five knots mean five stitches.

1. Clasp the suture with tweezers and pull just enough to clear the skin.

2. Then, insert the scissors and cut the suture just below the knot.

3. Use the tweezers to gently pull the suture from the skin.

4. Repeat the process with the next suture until all are removed

5. If any spaces between the edges of the laceration remain, apply a steri-strip or cut the adhesive part of a band aid and apply to the wound while gently pulling the edges together, and leave on for about three to five days.

Wipe the Area and Keep Dry for a Few Days

After the suture removal is complete, cleanse the area and keep it dry for a few days. Healing will continue and the wound may leave a minimal amount of scarring.

Complications to Observe and Report

Contact your physician if any signs of infection occur: including red streaks or lines at the site, swelling, fever, excessive amount of drainage, redness, or swelling at the site.

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    • pharmacist2013 profile image

      pharmacist2013 4 years ago

      Really useful, thumbs up!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      First: watch out for comedians who put you in stitches in the first place!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really good info! I like the self dissolving ones myself, or none is even better!

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 4 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      Real useful share, thank you so much.voted ueful.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Useful hub, but for me, the doctor will have to remove any stitches. No way would I be able to to that! I might be able to remove my daughter or husband's stitches using these directions, but not mine.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Pharmacist, my fellow health colleague. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi persypcacious, many a comedian has put me in stitches. Lol!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Xstatis, yeah, always ask for dissolving sutures when you go the ER department. Lol. Just kidding, it wouldn't work but it is a nice idea.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you girishpuri, I hope you never have to use this though.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      I don't know if you have any animals, but sometimes people use a guide like this to remove sutures from their dogs or cats as well. Thanks for you comments, I appreciate your response.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      I think I'd just go back to the doc. I'm very squeamish about these things! It's good to know the info about how long to leave 'em in, though.

      Thanks!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Very interesting hub! I'll admit, I squirmed a bit from time to time, but I certainly learned a lot.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Paradise, I don't recommend anyone take out their own sutures, but with the cost of healthcare, it may be a good thing to know. Thanks for your comments!

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you for braving the subject. It is pretty challenging but if you ever actually needed the info, you could follow the instructions with your eyes closed (better keep them open). Lol... thanks ESPeck1919

    • profile image

      neeraj.singhleo1991@gmail.com 4 years ago

      i have stitching sign on my forehead, face looks bad, specify me right solution to remove that.

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