What Happens if Stitches are not removed?

Sutures or stitches, are sterile surgical threads which are used to repair accidental cuts or surgical incisions. In some cases, metal staples may be used rather than sutures.

Sutures are used to close both superficial surface wounds and deeper wounds. In order to close a deep wound, the doctor may need to sew it closed in multiple layers, meaning some of the sutures will be placed below the surface of the skin.

There are two different types of sutures which can be used, including absorbable and non-absorbable.

Absorbable stitches do not require removal as the body naturally absorbs them within about 60 days. This type of sutures can be used for layers of skin and tissue which heals quickly. This type of suture is created from materials which gradually dissolves inside the body. Because these sutures are made with multiple fibers, they are exceptionally strong during the first few days of healing and are less likely to break. After two weeks of healing, however, they will lose most of their strength. Absorbable sutures are an ideal solution for repairing muscles, as muscles need strong sutures in the initial stages of healing, but heal relatively fast.

In comparison, non-absorbable sutures are ideal for visible skin wounds as they often result in less scarring. When non-absorbable sutures are used, they are removed after the wound has had a chance to heal. In most cases, it takes about a week for the tissues to connect and form a bridge between the two edges of the wound. Once the tissue has adequately healed, the stitches can be removed. The wound will continue to heal once the stitches are removed. When the stitches remain in the skin for too long, it can result in additional scarring.

Non-absorbable sutures can also be used for internal wounds which need to heal for an extended amount of time. Depending on the material used for the sutures, non-absorbable sutures may be permanent or slowly deteriorate. These sutures maintain their strength for 300 days or more. They can be created from natural fibers or synthetic materials such as nylon, polypropylene, polyethylene or polyester. At the completion of a surgery, these long-lasting sutures hold fibrous internal tissues together. This is important as these tissues do not have a large amount of blood flow and a long time to heal. Non-absorbable sutures which are used in deep tissues, will remain in place indefinitely.

Prior to suturing a cut, the doctor will need to know the following information:

  1. The cause of the cut. It is important for the doctor to know if the cut was from a piece of glass, wood or metal which may have broken off inside in the wound or if the wound could be contaminated.
  2. When the cut occurred. The risk of infection can increase if the patient waits a few hours prior to seeking medical attention.
  3. If there are any allergies to anesthetics or antibiotics
  4. Any current medications, including prescription and nonprescription drugs which can impact bleeding and the healing process.
  5. When you last received a tetanus shot

The above information will aid the doctor in determining if sutures are a good solution for closing the wound. In some cases, the wound may be contaminated and should not be closed with sutures as infection may be prevented from draining. Wounds which have been open for six hours or more should not be closed with sutures. If the wound has been exposed for too long, it should be cleaned and kept open under a bandage where it can slowly heal on its own.

Is getting stitches or sutures removed painful?