Stitches (Sutures, Wound Closures)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideFirst Aid: Properly Caring for Wounds

First Aid: Properly Caring for Wounds

When and how are sutures removed?

The optimal time for suture removal depends upon both the location of the laceration and how much stress is placed on the laceration. For example, a knee laceration will require the suture to remain in place longer than on the thigh, since the skin will be stressed each time the knee flexes and extends with walking, sitting, and standing.

Sutures form a loop that surrounds the laceration and when pulled tight cause the wound to close. The body can start to form a scar around the suture itself, and it is important to remember this when deciding the appropriate time to remove the sutures. This scarring tends to occur within seven to eight days and can have an appearance resembling crosshatching or railroad tracks.

Sutures on the face are usually removed within five days since there is such good blood supply in this region and healing occurs more quickly. The goal is to minimize scarring; therefore, the risk of the sutures causing a scar in their own right is balanced against the strength and potential weakness of the healing laceration. Elsewhere on the body, sutures may be left in for seven to 10 days. In some circumstances, in which scarring is not an issue or if there is concern that wound is under mechanical stress (like a laceration over a joint), the sutures may be left in longer.

What happens to the site after suture removal?

While the sutures may be removed, the scar continues to mature over time. For the first three months, there will be a raised, red healing ridge at the laceration site. Over the next two to three months, the ridge will flatten and then will start to weather and lighten. It may take six to eight months or longer before the final result of the laceration repair can be appreciated.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2015

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