Removing Stitches

Learn More About Removing Stitches

Removing stitches is a procedure that many patients dread as they believe it to be painful and unpleasant. The truth being said- it is certainly not a pleasant experience, but it is nothing to be scared of. In fact, many people choose to remove the stitches at home without the help of a doctor or nurse. Modern medicine has also developed a type of ‘thread’ that slowly dissolves when coming into contact with fluids, thus removal becomes unnecessary.

In medical terms, stitches are called ‘sutures’ and a wound will heal fast and quick when it is virtually ‘sewed’ together. This procedure has become an essential part of today’s medicine, particularly in external and internal surgery. The suture is only required for a short term to keep injured tissue together until a natural scar has developed that can hold and heal the parts without artificial help. Sutures have been a very important discovery in the history of medicine, and the thread was usually made of silk or animal intestines. The developed world today uses synthetic to produce a strong, thin and hygienic material that meets contemporary standards. After the wound has stabilised and can heal on its own, it is crucial to remove the stitches as they may cause an inflammation or infection.

There are two major types of thread, ‘absorbable sutures’ and ‘non-absorbable sutures’. As the name suggest, one type can absorb fluids, the other one cannot. Absorbable material is primarily used when the operation is internal, such as organs or subcutaneous tissue. This is because it is very difficult (if not impossible) to remove stitches from internal scars. The sutures last for about 60 days until they dissolve naturally, and no further action needs to be taken. It is also often used by orthodontists after procedures inside the mouth, and very rarely on external wounds. This largely depends on the type of injury and of course the medical availability of this material which varies from nation to nation.

Non-absorbable sutures are most commonly used for external wounds, such as deep cuts and lacerations. After the injured part is disinfected, the skin is sewed together and the thread lasts for much longer than 60 days. However, it rarely ever stays that long and depending on the severity of the wound, it is removed after 2 – 4 weeks. Most of the time, removing stitches does not hurt, it may itch and tickle. Only in rare cases where the stitches have healed into the skin or where the thread was a very thick one, some pain may occur. Some people remove it themselves, and while this may be relatively easy, only a doctor can determine whether the wound has healed well enough. The removal process is simple- the thread is cut on one side as close to the skin as possible to avoid inserting any bacteria under the skin. Then the thread is pulled from the other end all the way through, and it is absolutely crucial to use an antiseptic before and after this procedure!

There are several alternatives to the traditional stitches, but it is notable that none of them has been quite as safe and effective as sutures. One alternative are a very strong type of plaster which hold the skin together and keep it sterile. These plasters can only be used externally and although it is a relatively pain free option, it is not as safe as stitches as it may lose its strength. Another alternative is fibrin sealant which can simply be described as ‘protein-rich glue’. It can be used both internally and externally but its effectiveness is limited. While the fibrin sealant is pain free and dissolves automatically, it has a limited capacity and the body part that is affected must be kept still for a while. Another type of ‘glue’ is polyacrylic fibre which is exclusively used on external wounds due to its toxic ingredients. This type is very popular for plastic surgery as it hardly causes scars. Staples are also an option – they hold the wound together without actually going into the skin. They can be used on all types of operations but surgeons are still reluctant as they seem to be less effective on certain types of procedures, particularly in internal medicine.

Admittedly, sutures may not be the prettiest or most pleasant choice, but definitely the safest and healthiest one. While removing stitches may cause a little pain, it is usually nothing compared to the pain caused by the actual injury. So just close your eyes and be brave!