Basic Suturing Workshop

Lianne Beck, MD Emory Family Medicine December 2010


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Describe the principles of wound healing Identify the various types and sizes of suture material. Choose the proper instruments for suturing. Identify the different injectable anesthetic agents and correct dosages. Demonstrate various biopsy methods: punch, excision, shave. Demonstrate different types of closure techniques: simple interrupted, continuous, subcuticular, vertical and horizontal mattress, dermal Demonstrate two-handed, one-handed, instrument ties Recommend appropriate wound care and follow-up.

Critical Wound Healing Period


5-7 days
5-7 days


7-14 days
7-14 days

0 5 7 14

14-28 days
21 28

Tissue Healing Time/Days

Model of Wound Healing
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(1) Hemostasis: within minutes post-injury, platelets aggregate at the injury site to form a fibrin clot. (2) Inflammatory: bacteria and debris are phagocytosed and removed, and factors are released that cause the migration and division of cells involved in the proliferative phase. (3) Proliferative: angiogenesis, collagen deposition, granulation tissue formation, epithelialization, and wound contraction (4) Remodeling: collagen is remodeled and realigned along tension lines and cells that are no longer needed are removed by apoptosis.

Wound Healing Concepts

Patient factors  Wound classification  Mechanism of injury  Tetanus/antibiotics/local anesthetics  Surgical principles and wound prep  Suture/needle/stitch choice  Management/care/follow-up

Common Patient Factors

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Age Blood supply to the area Nutritional status Tissue quality Revision/infection Compliance

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Weight Dehydration Chronic disease Immune response Radiation therapy

CDC Surgical Wound Classification

Clean: (1-5% risk of infection) uninfected operative wounds in
which no inflammation is encountered and the respiratory, alimentary, genital, or uninfected urinary tracts are not entered. In addition, clean wounds are primarily closed, and if necessary, drained with closed drainage. Operative incisional wounds that follow nonpenetrating (blunt) trauma should be included in this category if they meet the criteria.

Clean-contaminated: (3-11% risk) operative wounds in which
the respiratory, alimentary, genital, or urinary tract is entered under controlled conditions and without unusual contamination. Specifically, operations involving the biliary tract, appendix, vagina, and oropharynx are included in this category, provided no evidence of infection or major break in technique is encountered.

CDC Surgical Wound Classification

Contaminated: (10-17% risk) open, fresh, accidental wounds,
operations with major breaks in sterile technique or gross spillage from the gastrointestinal tract, and incisions in which acute, nonpurulent inflammation is encountered.

Dirty or infected: (>27% risk) old traumatic wounds with
retained devitalized tissue and those that involve existing clinical infection or perforated viscera. This definition suggests that the organisms causing postoperative infection were present in the operative field before the operation.

Surgical Principles

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Incision Dissection Tissue handling Hemostasis Moisture/site Remove infected, foreign, dead areas Length of time open

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Choice of closure material/mechanism Primary or secondary Cellular responses Eliminate dead space Closing tension Distraction forces and immobilization/care

Suture Materials

– Tensile strength – Good knot security

– Workability in handling
– Low tissue reactivity – Ability to resist bacterial infection

Types of Sutures
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Absorbable or non-absorbable (natural or synthetic) Monofilament or multifilament (braided) Dyed or undyed Sizes 3 to 12-0 (numbers alone indicate progressively larger sutures, whereas numbers followed by 0 indicate progressively smaller) New antibacterial sutures



Not biodegradable and permanent – Nylon – Prolene – Stainless steel – Silk (natural, can break down over years)

Degraded via inflammatory response – Vicryl – Monocryl – PDS – Chromic – Cat gut (natural)

Natural Suture


Biological  Cause inflammatory reaction – Catgut (connective from cow or sheep) – Silk (from silkworm fibers) – Chromic catgut

Synthetic polymers  Do not cause inflammatory response – Nylon – Vicryl – Monocryl – PDS – Prolene

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Multifilament (braided)

Single strand of suture material Minimal tissue trauma Smooth tying but more knots needed Harder to handle due to memory Examples: nylon, monocryl, prolene, PDS

Fibers are braided or twisted together  More tissue resistance  Easier to handle  Fewer knots needed  Examples: vicryl, silk, chromic

Suture Materials

Suture Selection

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Do not use dyed sutures on the skin Use monofilament on the skin as multifilament harbor BACTERIA Non-absorbable cause less scarring but must be removed Plus sutures (staph, monocryl for E. coli, Klebsiella) Location and layer, patient factors, strength, healing, site and availability

Suture Selection

Absorbable for GI, urinary or biliary  Non-absorbable or extended for up to 6 mos for skin, tendons, fascia  Cosmetics = monofilament or subcuticular  Ligatures usually absorbable

Suture Sizes

Surgical Needles
Wide variety with different company’s naming systems  2 basic configurations for curved needles

– Cutting: cutting edge can cut through tough

tissue, such as skin – Tapered: no cutting edge. For softer tissue inside the body

Surgical Needles

Surgical Instruments

Scalpel Blades

Anesthetic Solutions

Lidocaine (Xylocaine®)
– Most commonly used – Rapid onset – Strength: 0.5%, 1.0%, &

Lidocaine (Xylocaine®) with epinephrine
– Vasoconstriction – Decreased bleeding – Prolongs duration

2.0% – Maximum dose:
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5 mg / kg, or 300 mg
– 1.0% lidocaine = 1 g lidocaine / 100 cc = 1,000mg/100cc – 300 mg = 0.03 liter = 30 ml

– Strength: 0.5% & 1.0%
– Maximum individual

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7mg/kg, or 500mg

Anesthetic Solutions

CAUTIONS: due to its vasoconstriction properties never use Lidocaine with epinephrine on: – Eyes, Ears, Nose – Fingers, Toes – Penis, Scrotum

Anesthetic Solutions

– Slow onset – Long duration

– Strength: 0.25%
– DOSE: maximum individual dose 3mg/kg

Local Anesthetics

Injection Techniques

25, 27, or 30-gauge needle  6 or 10 cc syringe  Check for allergies  Insert the needle at the inner wound edge

Aspirate  Inject agent into tissue SLOWLY  Wait…  After anesthesia has taken effect, suturing may begin

Wound Evaluation

Time of incident  Size of wound  Depth of wound  Tendon / nerve involvement  Bleeding at site

When to Refer

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Deep wounds of hands or feet, or unknown depth of penetration Full thickness lacerations of eyelids, lips or ears Injuries involving nerves, larger arteries, bones, joints or tendons Crush injuries Markedly contaminated wounds requiring drainage Concern about cosmesis

Contraindications to Suturing

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Redness Edema of the wound margins Infection Fever Puncture wounds Animal bites Tendon, verve, or vessel involvement Wound more than 12 hours old (body) and 24 hrs (face)

Closure Types

Primary closure (primary intention) – Wound edges are brought together so that they are adjacent to each other (re-approximated) – Examples: well-repaired lacerations, well reduced bone fractures, healing after flap surgery Secondary closure (secondary intention) – Wound is left open and closes naturally (granulation) – Examples: gingivectomy, gingivoplasty,tooth extraction sockets, poorly reduced fractures

Tertiary closure (delayed primary closure) – Wound is left open for a number of days and then closed if it is found to be clean – Examples: healing of wounds by use of tissue grafts.

Wound Preparation

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Most important step for reducing the risk of wound infection. Remove all contaminants and devitalized tissue before wound closure. – IRRIGATE w/ NS or TAP WATER (AVOID H2O2, POVIDONE-IODINE) – CUT OUT DEAD, FRAGMENTED TISSUE If not, the risk of infection and of a cosmetically poor scar are greatly increased Personal Precautions

Basic Laceration Repair

Principles And Techniques

Langer’s Lines

Principles And Techniques
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Minimize trauma in skin handling Gentle apposition with slight eversion of wound edges – Visualize an Erlenmeyer flask Make yourself comfortable – Adjust the chair and the light Change the laceration – Debride crushed tissue

Types of Closures
● Simple interrupted closure – most commonly used, good for shallow ● ●

● ● ● ●

wounds without edge tension Continuous closure (running sutures) – good for hemostasis (scalp wounds) and long wounds with minimal tension Locking continuous - useful in wounds under moderate tension or in those requiring additional hemostasis because of oozing from the skin edges Subcuticular – good for cosmetic results Vertical mattress – useful in maximizing wound eversion, reducing dead space, and minimizing tension across the wound Horizontal mattress – good for fragile skin and high tension wounds Percutaneous (deep) closure – good to close dead space and decrease wound tension

Simple Interrupted Suturing

Apply the needle to the needle driver
– Clasp needle 1/2 to 2/3 back from tip

Rule of halves:
– Matches wound edges better; avoids dog ears – Vary from rule when too much tension across


Simple Interrupted Suturing
Rule of halves

Simple Interrupted Suturing
Rule of halves


The needle enters the skin with a 1/4-inch bite from the wound edge at 90 degrees
– Visualize Erlenmeyer

flask – Evert wound edges

Because scars contract over time


Release the needle from the needle driver, reach into the wound and grasp the needle with the needle driver. Pull it free to give enough suture material to enter the opposite side of the wound. Use the forceps and lightly grasp the skin edge and arc the needle through the opposite edge inside the wound edge taking equal bites. Rotate your wrist to follow the arc of the needle. Principle: minimize trauma to the skin, and don’t bend the needle. Follow the path of least resistance.

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Release the needle and grasp the portion of the needle protruding from the skin with the needle driver. Pull the needle through the skin until you have approximately 1 to 1/2-inch suture strand protruding form the bites site.
Release the needle from the needle driver and wrap the suture around the needle driver two times.

Simple Interrupted Suturing

Grasp the end of the suture material with the needle driver and pull the two lines across the wound site in opposite direction (this is one throw). Do not position the knot directly over the wound edge. Repeat 3-4 throws to ensuring knot security. On each throw reverse the order of wrap. Cut the ends of the suture 1/4-inch from the knot. The remaining sutures are inserted in the same manner

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Simple, Interrupted

The trick to an instrument tie

Always place the suture holder parallel to the wound’s direction.  Hold the longer side of the suture (with the needle) and wrap OVER the suture holder.  With each tie, move your suture-holding hand to the OTHER side.  By always wrapping OVER and moving the hand to the OTHER side = square knots!!

Two Handed Tie

Two Handed Tie

One-Hand Tie

One-Hand Tie

Continuous Locking and Nonlocking Sutures

Vertical Mattress

Good for everting wound edges (neck, forehead creases, concave surfaces)

Horizontal Mattress

Good for closing wound edges under high tension, and for hemostasis.

Horizontal Mattress

Suturing - finishing

After sutures placed, clean the site with normal saline.  Apply a small amount of Bacitracin or white petroleum and cover with a sterile non-adherent compression dressing (Tefla).

Suturing - before you go…

Need for tetanus globulin and/or vaccine? – Dirty (playground nail) vs clean (kitchen knife) – Immunization history (>10 yrs need booster or >5 yrs if contaminated)

Tell pt to return in one day for recheck, for signs of infection (redness, heat, pain, puss, etc), inadequate analgesia, or suture complications (suture strangulation or knot failure with possible wound dehiscence)
It should be emphasized to patients that they return at the appropriate time for suture removal or complications may arise leading to further scarring or subsequent surgical removal of buried sutures.

Patient instructions and follow up care

Wound care – After the first 24-48 hours, patients should gently wash the wound with soap and water, dry it carefully, apply topical antibiotic ointment, and replace the dressing/bandages. – Facial wounds generally only need topical antibiotic ointment without bandaging. – Eschar or scab formation should be avoided. – Sunscreen spf 30 should be applied to the wound to prevent subsequent hyperpigmentation.

Suture Removal

Average time frame is 7 – 10 days
– – – – – –

FACE: 3 – 5 d NECK: 5 – 7 d SCALP: 7 – 12 days UPPER EXTREMITY, TRUNK: 10 – 14 days LOWER EXTREMITY: 14 – 28 days SOLES, PALMS, BACK OR OVER JOINTS: 10 days

Any suture with pus or signs of infections should be removed immediately.

Suture Removal

Clean with hydrogen peroxide to remove any crusting or dried blood  Using the tweezers, grasp the knot and snip the suture below the knot, close to the skin  Pull the suture line through the tissue- in the direction that keeps the wound closed - and place on a 4x4. Count them.  Most wounds have < 15% of final wound strength after 2 wks, so steri-strips should be applied afterwards.

Topical Adhesives

Indications: selection of approximated, superficial, clean wounds especially face, torso, limbs. May be used in conjunction with deep sutures Benefits: Cosmetic, seals out bacteria, apply in 3 min, holds 7 days (5-10 to slough), seal moisture, faster, clear, convenient, less supplies, no removal, less expensive

Contraindicated with infection, gangrene, mucosal, damp or hairy areas, allergy to formaldehyde or cryanoacrylate, or high tension areas

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A sterile, liquid topical skin adhesive Reacts with moisture on skin surface to form a strong, flexible bond Only for easily approximated skin edges of wounds – punctures from minimally invasive surgery – simple, thoroughly cleansed, lacerations

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Standard surgical wound prep and dry Crack ampule or applicator tip up; invert Hold skin edges approximated horizontally Gently and evenly apply at least two thin layers on the surface of the edges with a brushing motion with at least 30 s between each layer, hold for 60 s after last layer until not tacky Apply dressing

Follow Up Care with Adhesives

No ointments or medications on dressing  May shower but no swimming or scrubbing  Sloughs naturally in 5-10 days, but if need to remove use acetone or petroleum jelly to peel but not pull apart skin edges  Pt education and documentation

Biopsy Methods

Punch & Shave: 8Wmo
Elliptical Excision: 0wMo&feature=related

         Thomsen, T. Basic Laceration Repair. The New England Journal of Medicine. Oct. 355: 17. Edgerton, M. The Art of Surgical Technique. Baltimore, Williams & Wilkins, 1988.; 2009, topic lacerations, etc. Jackson, E. Wound Care – Suture, Laceration, Dressing: Essentials for Family Physicians. AAFP Scientific Assembly. 2010. mbly/2010handouts/071.Par.0001.File.tmp/071-072.pdf

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