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Suture Care

Intro

Sutures, or stitches, are the most commonly used method to fix a cut or wound. Other methods are skin adhesives or glue, Steri-Strips or butterfly bandages, or even leaving skin openings alone in some cases.

  • Sometimes, a very contaminated or dirty wound is left alone for a few days with a plan to repair it with stitches later.
  • These methods of closing a wound are performed only after thorough irrigation, or washing, of the laceration and exploration and removal of any foreign debris or dirt.
  • When applicable, sutures are used to close the wound. Suture material is classified as absorbable or nonabsorbable.
    • Absorbable sutures dissolve over time.
    • Nonabsorbable sutures need to be removed within a time specified by your doctor.
Suture Home Care

Suture care is similar, regardless of the type of suture.

  • First, keep the wound clean and as dry as possible. Do not immerse or soak the wound in water. This means no swimming, washing dishes (unless thick rubber gloves are used), baths, or hot tubs until the stitches are removed or after about 2 weeks if absorbable suture material was used.
  • Leave original bandages on the wound for the first 24 hours. After this time, showering or rinsing is recommended, rather than bathing.
  • After the first day, remove old bandages and gently cleanse the wound with soap and water or half-strength peroxide (mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide with water). Cleansing twice a day prevents build-up of debris, which may cause a larger scar, make suture removal slightly painful and more difficult, or increase the likelihood of infection.

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When to Go to the Hospital

If you develop any of the signs or symptoms of infection or have any of the other reasons to visit your doctor and your doctor cannot see you promptly (meaning that same day), you should go to the hospital's emergency department for examination and further treatment.

Prognosis

All lacerations will heal, even if left alone. Suturing simply allows a cut to heal more quickly and with a better cosmetic result.

  • All wounds leave a scar when they heal. Many factors determine how noticeable a scar will appear. Some of these factors are how the cut is situated along lines of tension, if an infection occurs, or if the sutures are not removed in the amount of time specified by your doctor.
  • Exposure to sunlight within the first 6 months can cause permanent discoloration of the wound. This can be prevented by using sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) on the area during this time.
  • For people who have not completed a primary series of tetanus   shots, any recommendations for additional tetanus immunization should be followed. Wound contamination is still the most common source for the development of tetanus, which can cause death.

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