What to Know When It’s Your First Time Getting Stitches

Many of us have been there. A quick slip of the knife when you’re chopping veggies for soup, retrieving broken glass from a sink, or an unexpected fall from a bike that lands you on a sharp rock can all lead to wounds that need stitches.

If you’ve never had the experience of stitches, however, the thought of someone sewing up your skin with a needle and thread may have you running for the nearest exit. Don’t. Stitches, which are also called sutures, can help your skin heal faster, help prevent infection, and typically minimize scarring. And the pain is minimal, especially when compared to what you may have felt when the wound occurred.

Our healthcare providers at AccuHealth Urgent Care are stitch experts who are happy to explain why and when you need them, how it feels, and what you can expect as your sutured wound heals.

Why and when you need stitches

Your skin is a protective barrier that, among other things, helps prevent bacteria and other dangerous elements from entering your bloodstream. Even a tiny cut alerts your body’s natural healing processes to close the wound as quickly as possible.

It takes time, however, for your body to repair and rebuild damaged tissue. Stitches support your body’s tissue reconstruction system by bringing the wound edges together, which helps them fuse together and heal more quickly.

Skin wounds that probably require stitches include:

If you’re having trouble deciding whether you or your child needs stitches, don’t hesitate to come in for a visit. We’ll cleanse the wound thoroughly and determine whether stitches are necessary. For the best results, wounds should be sutured within six to eight hours of the injury.

What it’s like to get stitches

The process typically starts with applying a numbing gel to the area to reduce pain. We then clean the cut thoroughly with a medical formula of sterile water (saline) and inspect the wound closely to determine the depth and other factors. Depending on the trauma that caused the injury, we may also take X-rays to ensure all foreign material, such as glass shards or metal fragments, have been removed.

If sutures are necessary, we use more numbing agent, often lidocaine injected into the area, to effectively block your pain. It takes a few minutes for the medication to become effective. We won’t proceed until you have no sensation at the site of the injury, so you may have a few minutes to rest before suturing begins.

Once the site is numb, we remove any dead tissue from the area and then stitch the wound closed manually using a needle and specialized surgical thread. It goes quickly. The suturing itself is often the quickest portion of the entire process.

Some patients report a mild tugging sensation as the sutures are placed but no discomfort otherwise. We then bandage the wound, and you’re almost done.

Caring for your stitches

You can expect us to provide detailed care instructions before you leave the clinic, which includes keeping the site clean and monitoring for signs of infection that require further medical attention. The stitches may itch during the healing phase, but it’s important that you not scratch or otherwise irritate the wound site.

Depending on the nature of the laceration, we typically remove sutures after 7-10 days. This part of the process is painless. Your doctor simply snips the knots and pulls the suture material out. You may feel that slight tugging sensation once again, but it’s generally much less painful than pulling a hair out by its roots.

We’ll give you instructions regarding care of the site, which may be more sensitive to sun and other elements for a time.

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