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Suture questions

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Wound Infection - Suture Site
Wound Infection - Suture Site

  • This topic covers common questions about sutures (stitches)

Suture Removal Date: Guidelines for when particular sutures (or staples) should be removed:

  • Face: 4-5 days
  • Neck: 7 days
  • Scalp: 7-10 days
  • Chest, abdomen, and back: 7-10 days
  • Arms and back of hands: 7 days
  • Legs and top of feet: 10 days
  • Fingers and toes: 10-14 days
  • Palms and soles: 12-14 days
  • Overlying a joint: 12-14 days

Numbness of Skin Near a Laceration

  • Local Anesthesia - Duration of Action: Duration of numbness from local anesthesia depends on what type of local anesthesia was used. Numbness can last from 1 to 8 hours.
  • Numbness from the laceration itself: Some people report a small area of numbness right along the edges of the sutured wound. This can last 1 to 3 weeks.
  • Nerve injury:. Sometimes a cut can be deep enough that it cuts an important nerve. This should be suspected if the the area of numbness extends beyond just the edges of the wound and lasts more than 8 hours. An example of this would be a digital nerve injury of the finger; a person with this injury might notice some persisting numbness of one side of the finger. If you think that you have a nerve injury, you should call your doctor.

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • A major surgical wound is starting to open up
  • Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Suture came out early and wound has re-opened
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • Suture came out early and wound is still closed
  • Numbness extends beyond the wound edges and lasts over 8 hours
  • Suture removal is overdue
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home If
  • Sutured wound with no complications and you don't think you need to be seen

  1. Suture Care for a normal sutured wound:
    • Can get wound wet (e.g., bathing or swimming) after 24 hours.
    • Apply antibiotic ointment 3 times a day (Reason: to prevent infection and a thick scab).
    • Cleanse with warm water once daily or if it becomes soiled.
    • Change wound dressing when wet or soiled.
    • Dressing no longer needed when edge of wound closed (usually 48 hours)
    • EXCEPTION: dressing needed to prevent sutures from catching on clothing.
  2. Removal Date: Guidelines for when particular sutures (stitches) or staples should be removed:
    • Face 4-5 days
    • Neck 7 days
    • Scalp 7-10 days
    • Chest or abdomen 7-10 days
    • Arms and back of hands 7-10 days
    • Legs and top of feet 10 days
    • Back 10 days
    • Palms and soles 12-14 days
    • Overlying a joint 12-14 days
  3. Removal Delays: Do not miss your appointment for removing stitches. Stitches removed late can leave unnecessary skin marks and occasionally cause scarring. Delays also makes suture removal more difficult.
  4. Suture Out Early: If the sutures come out early, reinforce the wound with tape or butterfly Band-Aids until the office visit
  5. Wound Protection: After removal of sutures:
    • Protect the wound from injury during the following month.
    • Avoid sports that could re-injure the wound. If a sport is essential, apply tape before playing.
    • Allow the scab to fall off on its own. Do not try to remove it.
  6. Pain Medication:
    • For pain relief, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
    • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol): The dose is 650 mg by mouth every 4 hours or 1000 mg by mouth every 6 hours. Maximum dose per day = 4000 mg.
    • Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil): The dose is 400 mg by mouth every 6 hours or 600 mg by mouth every 8 hours.
    • People who are over 65 Years of age: Acetaminophen is generally considered safer than ibuprofen. Acetaminophen dosing interval should be increased to every 8 hours because of reduced liver metabolism. Maximum dose per day = 3000 mg.
    • CAUTION: Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach problems, kidney disease, are pregnant, or have been told by your doctor to avoid this type of anti-inflammatory drug. Do not take ibuprofen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.
    • CAUTION: Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
    • Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications that you take.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Looks infected
    • Fever
    • Sutures come out early
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 4/5/2008

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Online

Portions Copyright 2000-2009 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.

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