When Are Stitches Necessary?

Apr 04, 2024
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Unsure whether that nasty kitchen cut needs stitches or if an adhesive bandage from your medicine cabinet will do? It isn’t always easy to tell. Read on to learn critical signs for determining when stitches and a trip to urgent care are necessary.

Whether you slice your hand while preparing food or severely gash your knee after a bike spill on gravel — how can you tell whether you should visit urgent care for professional care and possibly stitches?  

The medical team at Primary & Urgent Care South, with locations in Warrior, Alabama, and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, provides the following guidelines to help you decide. 

Stitches work much like the thread that holds your clothing together. Medical sutures are made of nylon, silk, or other materials; some can even dissolve independently. They hold your skin together to close a wound, so it can heal properly and also work to minimize your risk of infection and scarring.

When to visit urgent care for a cut

Get to an urgent care clinic, such as Primary & Urgent Care South,  for prompt, effective treatment if:

  • Your cut is long and deep
  • Your cut is more than a half-inch wide
  • There’s debris in your cut
  • Your cut has jagged edges
  • Your cut is from a puncture wound

In addition, if your cut is from an animal or human bite or you’re showing signs of an infection — such as redness or a fever — you must seek prompt medical attention. You may require additional treatment, such as a tetanus shot or antibiotics.

What it’s like to get stitches

The process starts with the application of a numbing gel to reduce pain. Next, we thoroughly clean the cut with a medical formula of sterile water (saline). Then, we inspect it closely to determine its depth and other aspects. In some cases, we take X-rays to ensure all foreign material, such as glass shards or metal fragments, has been removed.

If sutures are necessary, we apply an additional numbing agent. Often, lidocaine is injected into the area.

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. Sewing the sutures is typically the fastest part of the process. 

Some people describe a slight tugging sensation during the placement of sutures but no discomfort. We then bandage the wound, and you’re almost done.

Caring for your stitches

We provide detailed care instructions before you leave, which include keeping the site clean and monitoring it for signs of infection that require further medical attention. 

As you heal, the stitches may itch somewhat, but it’s important that you refrain from scratching or irritating the wound site.

Depending on the nature of the laceration, we typically remove sutures after 7-10 days. This process is painless. We snip the knots and pull the suture material out. It’s possible that you'll feel a slight tugging again, but you’ll find it’s significantly less painful than pulling a hair out by the roots.

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

If you’ve sustained a wound that may need more than an adhesive bandage and TLC, come in or call us to request an appointment.