Signs a cut may need stitches
It’s not always easy to tell if a cut requires stitches. Ultimately, it’s up to your health care provider to determine if stitches are needed. You should seek medical care for any cut that:
- Is deep, jagged, or gaping
- Is on the face or another part of the body where scarring may be an issue
- Bleeds profusely without stopping after 20 minutes of direct pressure
- Feels numb
- Is in a hand or limb that doesn’t function properly after being cut
If any of these criteria apply to your injury, see a doctor as soon as you can. In the meantime, apply direct pressure to help control bleeding. It might also help to raise the injured area above the level of your heart, if possible.
There are certain instances in which stitches may not be advised, such as puncture wounds, though you may still need to see a doctor, especially if you have not had a tetanus shot in more than five years.
Once a health care provider has assessed your injury and determined that you need stitches, the first steps he or she will take in treating the wound are to clean and numb the area, though not necessarily in that order. Although cleaning a wound is not very painful in most cases, the doctor may first administer a local anesthetic, similar to what your dentist might use, to maximize your comfort. If your injury seems particularly contaminated, however, cleansing it – usually with running tap water and a mild soap — may be a higher priority.
Removal of stitches
Stitches typically need to remain in place for several days to a couple of weeks, depending on the severity of the cut and location. Your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them taken out. Removing stitches is a much faster process than putting them in. The doctor simply clips each thread near the knot and pulls them out. You may feel a slight tugging sensation, but the removal of stitches shouldn’t hurt at all. You won’t even need an anesthetic.
Although removing stitches is not a difficult process, you shouldn’t try to remove them yourself. It’s important for your doctor to check to see that the wound is healing properly and to make sure that it’s OK for the stitches to come out. The doctor may also have special instructions for you after the stitches are removed, which may help minimize scarring.