KidsMD Health Topics

Lacerations with Stitches

  • A laceration is tear or opening in the skin caused by an injury. Lacerations may be small and need only minor treatment at home, or may be large enough to require emergency medical care.

    Stitches, also called sutures, are special types of thread that hold wound edges together while they heal. Stitches help to stop bleeding, reduce scarring, and decrease the chance of infection in the wound.

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    If this is a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1
    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-6611


  • How do I know if my child's cut needs stitches?

    Lacerations that involve the face, are longer than an inch, are deep or are bleeding heavily, may require stitches.

    What are Steri-Strips?

    Steri-Strips are special adhesive bandages that can sometimes be used on shallow wounds instead of stitches. Steri-Strips perform the same functions as stitches.

  • First-aid for lacerations requiring stitches

    • Calm and comfort your child by letting him know that you can help.
    • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for several minutes to stop bleeding. If the bleeding is profuse, hold pressure for five to 10 minutes without stopping to look at the cut. If the cloth becomes soaked with blood, put a new cloth on top of the old one.
    • Once bleeding has stopped, wash your hands and then wash the area well with soap and water, but do not scrub the wound. Remove any dirt particles from the area and let the water from the faucet run over it for several minutes.
    • Cover the area with an adhesive bandage or gauze.
    • Call your child's physician, or if bleeding is severe, call 911 or take your child to the emergency room for further care.

    When should I call my child's physician?

    Specific treatment for lacerations that require more than minor treatment at home will be determined by your child's physician. In general, call your child's physician for lacerations that are:

    • bleeding heavily and do not stop after five to 10 minutes of direct pressure
    • deep or longer than an inch
    • located close to the eye
    • large cuts on the face
    • caused by a puncture wound or dirty or rusty object
    • embedded with debris such as dirt, stones, or gravel
    • ragged or have separated edges
    • caused by an animal or human bite
    • excessively painful
    • showing signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling or drainage

    When to call your child's physician if:

    • your child has not had a tetanus vaccination within the past five years, or if you are unsure when your child's last tetanus shot was given
    • you are concerned about the wound or have any questions

    Treatment for lacerations with stitches and Steri-Strips

    If your child's doctor or an emergency department physician needs to place stitches or use Steri-Strips to close a laceration, you will be given specific instructions for how to care for your child's stitches. Treatment at home will be based on the location and size of the laceration, type of stitches used, and any special needs noted by your child's physician. Antibiotics may be given to help prevent infection of your child's wound.

    Removal of stitches

    Some stitches dissolve and do not need to be removed while others stitches require removal. Your child's physician or the emergency department physician will let you know when to return to have stitches removed. Do not try to remove your child's stitches yourself.

    Some general guidelines for caring for lacerations with stitches or Steri-Strips

    • Keep the area clean and dry.
    • Carefully follow the physician's instructions for care of your child's wound.
    • Make sure your child avoids any activity that may cause him or her to re-injure or open the wound.
    • Observe your child's wound for signs of infection such as increased warmth, swelling, redness, drainage, or pain.
    • Observe the stitches to make sure they are intact and keeping the wound edges together.
    • Return for follow-up care, as advised by your child's physician.
    • Once the wound is completely healed, use extra sunscreen on sunny days to help protect the area of new skin.
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