LiveSmart: Closing Up a Wound – Which Option is Best?
[This piece was written by Axel Herrmannsdoerfer, M.D., Medical Director for St. Peter’s Health Partners Urgent Care.]
Maybe you’ve cut your hand while making dinner, or one of your kids fell on the driveway playing basketball, or a friend took a header while jogging. If it’s a minor scrape, you clean the wound, bandage it up, and you’re back in business. Sometimes, though, it is a more severe gash that won’t stop bleeding – it’s time for expert medical treatment.
The good news is urgent care physicians have a variety of options at their disposal when treating skin wounds. The type of material and technique the provider uses will depend on the injured person’s age, type of injury, and location of the injury.
This is the most common technique for closing skin wounds. A doctor uses a piece of surgical thread called a suture to sew (or stitch) two ends of skin together. Sutures are recommended for:
- Deeper wounds that might take a longer time to heal
- Wounds within a hairline or through an eyebrow
- Wounds with damage to underlying muscle or tendons
- Wounds in areas of high skin tension such as the arm, leg or forehead
- Wounds in areas that stretch, move, or change, such as over joints
- Wounds that have a high risk of infection, such as animal bites
- Wounds to mucus membranes, lips, and genitalia (in cases of injury to these areas, a trip to the emergency department and not urgent care is recommended)
Surgical glue – also called “skin glue,” “tissue adhesive,” or “liquid stitches” – is a common alternative to traditional stitches. The main advantage of surgical glue is it is quick and virtually painless to use. Additional benefits include:
- Lower rates of infection
- No injections of pain medication or stitches, which is an excellent option for a young child (who might otherwise need to be sedated or restrained)
- Quicker return to work and other activities, like sports
- No stitches to remove
If you have sensitive skin or certain allergies, surgical glue may not be a good option for you. It also is not recommended for individuals with an increased risk for slow wound healing (such as patients with diabetes or edema).
Doctors sometimes use sticky strips of medical tape to pull together the edges of minor skin wounds. Your doctor may use adhesive tape if you have a minor cut or laceration in a low-tension area.
Medical staples allow your doctor to quickly close longer wounds with minimal damage and are easier to remove than stitches. They are often used for wounds with straight, sharp edges that are located on the scalp, trunk, arms, and legs.
St. Peter’s Health Partners has six convenient urgent care clinics located throughout the Capital Region. Each urgent care is staffed with a team of specially trained professionals who respond to a wide range of illnesses and injuries for patients of all ages. Board-certified/eligible physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses all work together as a team to provide a patient-focused approach to health care. Digital medical imaging is available at all six locations.
St. Peter’s Urgent Care also has “Skip the Wait,” which allows you to check wait times at all six locations, select a location, and save your place in line before you head in. Visit http://www.sphp.com/urgentcare for more information.