Suture Care

What are sutures?

Sutures, or stitches, are used to close cuts and wounds on the skin. Absorbable sutures do not need to be removed. They are absorbed by your body. Sutures that are not absorbable need to be removed after your wound has healed.


How should I care for my sutures?

Keep your sutures covered with a bandage for 24 to 48 hours, unless your caregiver tells you not to. Keep your sutures and bandage clean and dry. Try not to bump or hit the suture area on anything as this could open the wound up. Do not trim or shorten the ends of your sutures. If they rub on your clothing, put a gauze bandage between the sutures and your clothes.

How do I change my bandage?

If your bandage gets wet and you need to change it, unwrap it slowly and carefully. If it sticks or starts to hurt, gently run water over it to loosen it. Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Ask your caregiver if you need to put an antibiotic ointment or other medicine on your wound. Cover your wound with a clean, new bandage. Change your bandage every time it gets wet or dirty.

How do I clean my wound?

Use soap and water and gently clean your wound as directed to keep it free from germs. For mouth and lip wounds, rinse your mouth after meals and at bedtime. Ask what to use to rinse your mouth. If you have a scalp wound, you may gently wash your hair every 2 days with mild shampoo. Do not use hair products, such as hair spray.

What can I do to help my wound heal?

  • Limit activity: Limit stretching the areas around your wound. This will help prevent bleeding and swelling of the wound area.

  • Elevate your wound: If your wound is on your arm or leg, raise the wound higher than the level of your heart. This will help decrease pain and swelling. You can use pillows to elevate your arm or leg while you are sitting or lying down.

  • Minimize your scar: Do not pick at your wound. Use sunblock if your wound is exposed to the sun. Apply it every day after the sutures are removed. This will help prevent discoloration of your scar.

When and how will caregivers take my sutures out?

  • Sutures are usually removed in 7 to 10 days, depending on where your wound is. Sutures on your face need to be removed after 3 to 5 days. Sutures on your scalp need to be removed after 7 to 14 days. Sutures over joints may remain in place for as long as 14 days. Medical strips may be placed across your wound after the sutures have been removed. This tape will peel off on its own. Do not pull it off.

  • Caregivers use sterile forceps to pick up the knot of each suture. The sutures are then cut with a small pair of scissors. Forceps are used to pull the suture out. You may feel a tug or slight pull as it is removed. The steps are repeated until all the sutures have been removed.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have increased pain in the wound area.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a fever and chills.

  • You see red streaks coming from your wound.

  • Your wound is red, warm, swollen, or leaking pus.

  • There is a bad smell coming from your wound.

  • You cannot move the joint that was injured.

  • You have sudden numbness or swelling around your wound.

  • Blood soaks through your bandages.

  • Your sutures come apart.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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