Should You Use Steri-Strips or Sutures?
Using steri-strips is pretty straightforward, but when do you need to toss the steri-strips to the side and go for something more involved? Wound closure is done to minimize infection so the sooner the wound is closed the better. The choice really comes down to the depth of the wound.
Use Steri-Strips for These Types of Wounds
- Wounds less than 1/4″ deep.
- Wounds less than 3/4″ long.
- No exposed fat in the wound.
- No exposed muscle in the wound.
A good rule of thumb is any wound under 1/4″ deep and less than 3/4″ long is a good candidate for steri-strips. If the wound is deeper or longer than that, stitches (sutures) are recommended. Another good indicator to get sutures is if you can see muscle (deep red tissue), or fat (yellow material) in the wound.
Use Sutures for These Types of Wounds
- Wounds deeper than 1/4″ deep.
- Wounds longer than 3/4″ long.
- Deep wounds that extend into underlying fat or muscle layers.
- Dirty wounds that need to be thoroughly cleaned before being closed.
- Wounds that have jagged edges or that are gaping open.
- Wounds located over a joint that would be repeatedly stressed by movement of the joint. (Such as the knuckles or a knee.)
- Wounds on the face, lips, eyelids, or other areas of the body where keeping scaring at bay is important.
- Wounds on or in the genital area.
- Wounds that are bleeding profusely or continue to bleed after application of pressure.
- A wound which may contain a foreign object. (Such as a piece of glass.)
- Wounds caused by an animal or human bite. (These need to be closely monitored for infection and should probably also be followed with antibiotic treatments.)
How to Apply Steri-Strips
- Remove any foreign objects from the wound.
- Sterilize the area around the wound.
- Dry the area to allow the steri-strips to stick to the skin.
- Stick the steri-strip to one side of the wound.
- Gently push the wound closed.
- Apply the other side of the steri-strip.
- Continue this process until you’ve completely closed the wound.
It’s pretty much that simple. After you have the wound clean and put the steri-strips in place, cover the wound with a bandage just like you would any other wound and keep it clean and dry. The steri-strips should come off on their own in 7-10 days.
Get Familiar with Suturing
I’d suggest at least getting familiar with suturing, even if you only watch a quick video. You never know when it may come in handy.
Wound closure is done to minimize infection so the sooner the wound is closed the better.
The rule in the ERs that I worked in was get to us within 6 to 12 hours and we might consider closing one that had been left open longer but probably not.
The longer the wound is left open the greater the chance of it becoming infected.
Deep wounds need to be closed in layers. If you pull the edges together over a deep wound you might get an abscess under it. I’m not going to describe suture technique as I’m sure there must be thousands of online videos.
This video does a great job of showing off a simple suture technique.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand how to use steri-strips.
Be sure to check out more first aid articles before you go!