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Patient education: Removing stitches (The Basics)

Patient education: Removing stitches (The Basics)

What are stitches? — Stitches are a way doctors can close certain types of cuts. A doctor uses a special needle and thread to put in stitches. They sew the edges of the cut together and tie knots to hold the stitches in place (figure 1). The term doctors use for stitches is "sutures."

There are 2 main types of stitches:

Absorbable – These stitches dissolve over time. They do not need to be taken out.

Non-absorbable – These stitches need to be taken out after a certain amount of time. They do not dissolve.

This article is about removing non-absorbable stitches.

How are stitches removed? — Stitches are removed by a doctor or nurse. Usually, stitches are taken out 5 to 14 days after they were put in, depending on where they are.

When it is time for your stitches to be removed, the doctor or nurse will check your cut to make sure that it is healing well.

To remove each stitch, the doctor or nurse will:

Use a special tool to gently pull up on the knot in the stitch

Use small, sharp scissors or a sharp blade to cut the stitch

Gently pull the stitch out of the skin

You might be able to feel some pressure or tugging. But having stitches removed should not hurt.

When all of the stitches are out, the doctor or nurse will clean the cut. They might put a bandage, dressing, or small sticky strips over the area to protect it.

How do I care for myself at home? — Ask the doctor or nurse what you should do when you go home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do to care for yourself. Ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

You should also:

If you have sticky strips on your cut, leave them on until they fall off, or until your doctor or nurse says to take them off.

Wash your hands before and after touching your cut.

Follow your doctor or nurse's instructions about:

When you should clean the wound and how to change your bandages or dressing, if needed

Physical activity

Take care of your scar:

Protect the area from the sun – Always use sunscreen or wear clothes or a hat that cover the scar.

Your doctor or nurse might also recommend using a special lotion or cream to help your scar heal.

When should I call the doctor? — Call for advice if:

You have signs of infection – These include:

Swelling, redness, or warmth around the cut

Yellow, green, or bloody discharge from the cut

Bad smell coming from the cut

The cut becomes painful

Your cut opens up again.

More on this topic

Patient education: Stitches and staples (The Basics)
Patient education: Taking care of cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds (The Basics)
Patient education: Skin glue for minor cuts (The Basics)
Patient education: Taking care of bruises (The Basics)
Patient education: Removing staples (The Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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