Suture or Staple Questions

Is this your symptom?

  • This topic covers common questions about stitches and staples

Some Basics...

  • Stitches and staples are used to keep wounds together during healing.
  • They need to be removed within 4-14 days. The specific removal date depends on the location of the stitches or staples. Removal should not be delayed.

When Should Sutures or Staples Get Removed?

Here are some general guidelines for when stitches or staples should be removed.

  • Face: 4-5 days
  • Neck: 7 days
  • Scalp: 7-10 days
  • Chest, stomach, 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
  • Over a joint: 12-14 days

Is It Normal for the Skin to Feel Numb Around the Sutures or Staples?

There are three reasons why the skin near sutures or staples might feel numb.

  • Local Anesthesia: The doctor may have injected the skin to make it numb. This way there is no pain when the doctor puts in sutures or staples. How long this lasts depends on what type of local anesthesia was used. Numbness can last from 1-8 hours.
  • Numbness From the Cut Itself: Some people have numbness after getting a cut. There is numbness just along the edges of the wound. This is from cutting nearby tiny nerves at the same time. Numbness can last 1-3 weeks. These tiny nerves will grow back in 2-3 weeks. The numbness will go away.
  • Nerve Injury: Sometimes a cut can be deep enough that it cuts a larger nerve. Numbness that is not just around the wound and that lasts more than 8 hours is a clue. For example, numbness that does not go away, just on one side of a cut finger may mean there has been a digital nerve injury. A person with a possible nerve injury should see his or her doctor.

When to Call for Suture or Staple Questions

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Bleeding that won't stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Stitches came out early and wound has re-opened
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Stitches came out early and wound is still closed
  • Overdue to have stitches removed
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Numbness goes beyond the wound edges and lasts more than 8 hours
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Stitched wound with no other problems

Care Advice

Stitched or Stapled Wound

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Stitches and staples need to be removed within 4-14 days. The specific removal date depends on the location of the stitches or staples. Removal should not be delayed.
    • You should take care of stitched or stapled wounds at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treatment - Normal Stitched or Stapled Wound:
    • You can get the wound wet after 24 hours. It is OK to take a short shower or bath.
    • Put antibiotic ointment on the wound 3 times a day. This will help to prevent infection and a thick scab.
    • Clean the wound with warm water 1 time a day or if it gets dirty.
    • Change the wound dressing if it gets wet or dirty.
    • You do not need a dressing after the edges of the wound have closed. This most often happens after 48 hours. You may still need a dressing to stop stitches from catching on your clothing.
  3. When Should Stitches or Staples Be Removed? Your doctor will have told you when to get your stitches removed. Here are some general guidelines for when stitches or staples should be taken out:
    • Face: 4-5 days
    • Neck: 7 days
    • Scalp: 7-10 days
    • Chest or stomach: 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
    • Over a joint: 12-14 days
  4. What Happens If You Leave Stitches (or Staples) in Too Long?
    • Get your stitches out at the right time.
    • Stitches that are left in too long can leave skin marks and sometimes cause scarring. Delays also make it harder to take the stitches out.
  5. What Happens If Stitches (or Staple) Fall Out Early?
    • If the stitches or staples come out early, the wound might open up.
    • You can reinforce the wound with tape or butterfly adhesive bandages (Band-Aids).
    • Contact your doctor.
  6. Treatment - After Your Stitches (or Staples) Have Been Removed:
    • Protect the wound from injury during the next month.
    • Avoid sports that could re-injure the wound. If you must play a sport, put tape on the wound before playing.
    • Let the scab fall off on its own. Do not try to remove it.
  7. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Wound looks infected
    • Fever
    • Stitches come out early
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Preventing Scars

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after a cut or wound.
    • Serious injuries and larger wounds are more likely to have scarring.
    • Most cuts that need stitches, staples, or skin glue will have some scarring.
    • Some people are more likely than others to get scars.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Prevention:
    • Be certain to get the stitches removed when your doctor told you to. If you leave them in too long, they can leave marks.
    • Avoid getting sunburn on the wound area for 2 months.
    • Avoid re-injuring this area.
    • Some people put Vitamin E cream on a healing wound to prevent scarring. Research has not shown that this might help.

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

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to 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.


Last Reviewed: 10/20/2017 1:26:03 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:20 PM

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Wound Infection - Suture Site

There is a pimple where a stitch comes through the skin. The pimple suggests a low-grade infection.

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