A Stitch in Time Saves...Doctor's Fees?
June 2, 2009 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Removing stitches. DIY?

A friend of mine has some minor stitches that she needs removed. Is wondering if she can do them herself, or if a competent friend (perhaps me) can remove them. They are minor skin removal superficial type stitches in nonsensitive places. We're mainly trying to avoid stupid additional doctor's fees, and convenient medical facilities she is covered by are giving her the runaround. Have you done this yourself? Are there risks, and if so, what are they?
posted by ikahime to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My sister took out her friend's stitches. They were on her friend's back. She just used tweezers and was very gentle.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2009

My dad took out my brother's stitches. They were in his forehead, and he removed them on the day he was scheduled to go have them removed anyway. We didn't have insurance. It was fine. I don't remember what he used to remove them, but it was less invasive than removing a sliver.
posted by peep at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2009

It's pretty easy, just snip and use tweezers. The risk is that it's not fully healed and it could open back up, but it should be fairly obvious if that's the case.
posted by electroboy at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2009

I've taken mine out myself also. It's no biggie.
posted by Billegible at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2009

I've taken out stitches before, both my own and others. Just be gentle and don't pull. If something won't give easily, don't force it.

You don't want to introduce any dirt/germs/whatever into your friend's skin, so use clean scissors and tweezers (soak them in alcohol before use), and wash the area gently before you do the deed.

Oh, yeah - IANAD.
posted by Pecinpah at 1:42 PM on June 2, 2009

Best answer: It's really not too hard:

Step 1. Clean fine scissors and tweezers in rubbing alcohol.
Step 2. Sterilize the area as well as possible.
Step 3. Using the scissors, cut one side of the loop.
Step 4. Carefully pull the knot using the tweezers.
Step 5. Sterilize the area again.
Step 6. Neosporin or equivalent.

1. I am not a physician, and this should not be considered medical advice. I've done it myself and just removed my wife's stitch the other day.
2. If it's in a sensitive area, don't DIY.
3. Make sure you've waited long enough. Depending on this injury, you want to make sure to give it enough time to prevent the risk of it reopening.
4. If the wound looks infected, you don't want to mess around; get to a physician.
5. If it's not coming out easily, let a pro do it.
posted by JMOZ at 1:47 PM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Use clean utensils, neosporin, and bandage it up afterward. You'll do fine. If y6y6y6 can sew up his own gunshot wound, you can take out some stitches.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:49 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Step 4. Carefully pull the knot using the tweezers.

This is the key. You need to pull from the knot side rather than the other side (I know, sounds obvious). My dermatologist actually gave me written instructions to have my husband remove my single stitch from a skin biopsy. She said the most common problem is that folks pull from the wrong end.
posted by anastasiav at 1:55 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even here in the socialist heath care paradise of Canada I've never bothered warming up the dog sled to get surface stitches removed. JMOZ pretty well has it but I don't bother with polysporin afterwards. It's really important to be fully healed so if you are at all in doubt wait another day as the biggest risk is in the wound reopening.
posted by Mitheral at 2:14 PM on June 2, 2009

Nth-ing "I've taken my own out". No big deal. Mine were in my hand - I took alternate stitches out at first to gain a better confidence the wound was properly secure before removing the rest.
posted by devbrain at 2:16 PM on June 2, 2009

I've taken out many stitches - as a vet nurse trainee, a go-to-girl barmaid (rough bar!) and as a general clumsy type.

The tool that a medical professional would use for this task has a little curved blade, very sharp. I've found that a new, still sharp "quick unpick" - the little seam ripper that you get in every sewing kit - is a handy substitute.
Make sure you use the smallest, sharpest blade you can find, to avoid dragging and pulling at the stitches. Cut under the knot, and as close to the skin as you can, to avoid dragging outside 'dirt' through the stitch.
Like everyone said above, grasp the knot and pull so that the unknotted end passes through the skin.

Examine each stitch to make sure you got all of it out. I've had supposedly "dissolving" sutures (top-knots snipped and inspected by a top plastic surgeon, not me!) which have had to bubble to the surface and eject themselves, long after the rest of the suture-line had healed. While this isn't a big deal for a healthy body to cope with, it can be a freaky experience, and leave a wider scar. This is why it's important to pull from the knot end!
posted by Catch at 2:42 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also know people who have been told my their medical person (Dr., NP, etc.) that it's OK to take them out after x amount of time.
posted by rhizome at 3:12 PM on June 2, 2009

Very easy to take out yourself. Personally I use nail clippers.
posted by glider at 5:02 PM on June 2, 2009

i've taken out my own stitches. use very sharp AND CLEAN nail scissors (those tiny pointy ones with the curve) to snip. if you just have one or two stitches, that should be enough and then you can pull it out with CLEAN tweezers. if you have several stitches, you'll need several snips.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:17 PM on June 2, 2009

Did it myself on myself and on my wife and one of my children. If they are on the face, consider letting a pro do it for vanity/scar prevention sake. Otherwise, I used the scissors on my Leatherman. No biggie. I did have some crazy glue handy in case it did start to bleed out, but that was really not necessary.

I have also seen a friend put in his own stitches using need and thread. That was gross, but effective. Saved time and money. Not recommended for the average amateur medical technician which I consider myself to be a great one.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:11 PM on June 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Sounds like it won't be too hard.
posted by ikahime at 6:13 AM on June 3, 2009

I'm sure your friend's stitches are long gone, so this comment is for anyone else who is searching for info on this topic.

I just had some stitches removed by my doctor, and was surprised to find out that there was no charge. I went to the same doctor who put the stitches in, so apparently the removal cost was just included in the original fee. I guess this makes sense - removing the stitches took the doctor about 2 minutes, so it would have been weird to charge for a whole office visit.

I don't know if this is a common policy, but if your main concern is avoiding the doctor fees, you should check to make sure there actually is a fee.
posted by clarissajoy at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2009

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