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How to Safely Remove Sutures

Deep cuts and wounds often require stitches or what medical professionals call sutures. This is done to close the wound and help prevent infection from getting inside.

The same procedure is used to close an incision after surgery to join the skin together as the wound continues to heal.

While it’s always best for a medical professional to remove these stitches once the wound heals, there are instances when the person who sustained the wound (or a relative for that matter) prefers to do the removal on their own.

If you’re in the same predicament, it’s important to know what tools you’ll be needing as well as the necessary precautions you need to observe.

Is it Safe?

This is probably the biggest question in everyone’s mind and the truth is it depends on the circumstances. Healthcare professionals usually do this in two ways.

If they used dissolvable stitches, there’s no need to remove them because they will eventually dissolve and disappear on their own.

Stitches that require removal are what we call Nonabsorbable stitches usually made from either nylon or silk. This is the type of stitch that needs to be removed as soon as the wound heals.

As mentioned, it’s best to check with a healthcare professional if you can do it or not. Should they give you the go signal to proceed, make sure to understand when is the best time to do it.

When Can Sutures Be Removed?

The general guideline for suture removal in terms of how long you need to wait is the following:

For stitches found in the body, you’ll have to wait for 10 to 14 days before removing the sutures. Stitches found in the head or neck in the meantime, require 7 days of waiting before you proceed with suture removal.

Additional Factors to Consider

Recovery time is not the same for each person. Some heal faster while others take a bit more time and this could be because of the following:

  • Location of the wound

  • Size of the wound

  • Depth of the wound

  • The person’s general health

So how would you know if the wound is healed enough for suture removal? Is there a way to tell when it’s safe to perform the procedure?

When a wound has healed, it usually looks pink with closed edges. It should be less painful and there shouldn’t be blood or any form of fluid coming out of it.

Tools/Materials Needed

Should you decide to remove the sutures yourself, you’ll be needing the following:

  • A clean piece of cloth

  • Antibacterial soap

  • Antiseptic wipes

  • Boiling water

  • A small pair of scissors

  • Tweezers

Steps for Removing the Stitches

An important reminder before you proceed is to check if the wound has completely healed. Another important thing to remember is to observe if the wound opens while you’re removing the stitches or if it suddenly bleeds.

Should any of these happen during the procedure, it’s best to immediately stop and call a doctor.

1. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly using antibacterial soap and warm water.

2. Sterilize the tweezers and scissors by placing them both in boiling water for not more than 20 minutes. Dry them up with a clean piece of cloth immediately after.

3. Using an antiseptic wipe, proceed to clean the wound and its surrounding areas.

4. Make sure to perform the procedure under proper lighting conditions to avoid accidents.

5. Hold the knot at the top of the stitch using the tweezers then gently pull upward.

6. Position the scissors under the thread, close to the knot, then cut the thread.

7. Pull the broken stitch away carefully from the skin then place it to one side. Remember not to pull any unbroken stitch or knot through the skin because the stitch should easily come away.

8. Repeat the steps until every stitch has been removed.

It’s important to keep in mind that proper wound care is needed after the stitches have been removed. Make sure to keep the wound clean to avoid infection and to apply moisturizer to help reduce scarring.

Protect the wound with a bandage or dressing and try to avoid any heavy physical activity for the time being because doing so may cause the wound to reopen.

Final Thoughts

Suture removal is a delicate procedure that requires extra care which is why it would be best to leave such procedures in the hands of healthcare professionals as much as possible.

If circumstances require you to perform the procedure on your own, just take the side of caution by following the steps provided.

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