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Dr. Joyce: Stiches

Life is full of interesting events and some will leave scars.  Typical cuts acquired in daily life do not need stitches in order to heal with excellent cosmetic results but some scarring is unavoidable.  The skin heals by creating new scar tissue to hold the edges of a cut together.  Stitches or staples or glue are used to close cuts for a smaller narrower scar. Cuts that fail to stop bleeding after 10 minutes of direct pressure may need stitches to control bleeding.  Cuts that are larger than an inch in length and are on the face or hands or feet deserve special consideration and may need a clinic visit to manage.  From the time of a cut till safe closure with stitches is 6 hours but some wounds can be closed safely up to 12 hours later.  The longer a cut is left open the more likely it will be to trap bacteria inside it when it is closed and could lead to infection and abscess.

Letting the cuts have tap water running over them for cleansing has been shown to be no higher in infection rates than those cleansed with sterile water or soaps. Removing any dirt from the wound with running tap water will promote better healing.  If the wound is in need of evaluation in the clinic a dressing of gauze can help reduce infection.  Bringing your cut to the clinic will give us a chance to evaluate the depth, location, and risk of healing on its own versus gluing, stapling or stitching it closed.  If it is closed by one of these methods it may mean that the wound needs to be numbed with anesthetic. 

Of course the best way to avoid cuts is to avoid sharp edges near your skin.  Knives and box cutters are the most common sharp edges that cause cuts.  Wearing gloves when using a sharp knife reduces the likelihood of injury.  Practice care with knife use and follow these principles

  1. cutting away from yourself
  2. use a stable surface to cut on
  3. hand a knife to another person handle first
  4. acknowlege the knife has been received before letting it go.


Have a great Summer and avoid injury when you can but if a cut happens follow these principles.

Costs for the care of common injuries has dramatically increased in the last 30 years but with just a few simple steps you can save your family from unnecessary expenses.  St. Gianna clinic is open each day of the week for help with cuts and stitches, glue, and staples are available.

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