If you come into the emergency room (ER) with a cut (that’s what we call a wound or laceration) that needs to be closed, here’s what to expect: first, the wound will be cleaned thoroughly before it is closed in order to prevent infection. The emergency medicine (EM) doctor and nurse will be following sterile procedure, which includes wearing sterile gloves, to avoid getting any bacteria into the wound. So please, don’t touch anything.
Whether or not your doctor uses staples, thread (suture material) or glue depends on the size and location of the wound. If sutures are used, you’ll be interested to know that thread size is a consideration. Different synthetic threads are assigned a number that refers to tensile strength; the higher the number, the finer the thread. Suture material can be made of silk or synthetic material connected to curved needles of varying sizes. For instance, fine thread like “6-0” is used on the face. Ask your doctor what size thread she’s using and you’ll get her attention. Certain very large lacerations will need to be repaired in the operating room and may require referral to general surgeon or a plastic surgeon. Facial lacerations might need to be evaluated by a plastic surgeon.
Different parts of the body heal at different rates. For example, sutures in the face normally come out in three to five days. Dissolving sutures (absorbable) are used to close lower layers that are under tension. They can take a month to absorb. On the leg, which is further away from the heart, skin takes longer to heal so sutures may be left in for weeks. If sutures are over a joint, the joint will be immobilized to help healing and reduce scaring. Do not remove your own sutures. If you notice any swelling, drainage, redness or heat, especially after 48 hours, call your doctor.