Incision Care: Steri-Strips, Staples, and Stitches (2023)


What is an incision?

An incision is a cut made in the skin during surgery or a procedure. This is sometimes also called a surgical wound. The size, location, and number of incisions may vary depending on the type of surgery.

What is a dressing and how often should dressings be changed?

A bandage is another name for a bandage. This dressing protects your incision, keeps the wound clean, and creates an ideal environment fortreatment. Bandages should be changed according to your doctor's instructions.

Procedure Details

How are the incisions closed?

The incisions can be closed in a number of ways, including:

  • Stitches (sutures).
  • Forks.
  • Fabric glue.
  • Steri-Strips™ (a special type of adhesive tape).

A sterile bandage is usually placed over the closed incision to keep it clean and dry while the wound heals.

(Video) How to Remove Sutures and Apply Steristrips (Nursing Skills)

How should I care for my incisions after surgery?

It is important to follow your doctor's instructions when it comes to caring for your incisions after surgery. Caring for your incision(s) as directed promotes healing, reduces scarring, and reduces the risk of infection.

Some general incision care tips include:

  • Alwayswash handsbefore and after touching your incisions.
  • Inspect your incisions and wounds every day for signs that your doctor has told you are red flags or worrisome.
  • Look for any bleeding. If the incisions begin to bleed, apply constant, direct pressure to the incisions. If you experience any bleeding, you should call your doctor for instructions.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing that may rub against your incisions.
  • Try not to scratch the itchy wounds. Your incisions may itch as they heal; this is normal. Don't scratch them. If the itching gets worse instead of better, call your doctor.

Some general tips to remember for the different types of incision closure may include:

  • staples and stitches: You may wash or shower for 24 hours after surgery unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Clean area with mild soap and water and gently dry with a clean cloth. Your provider will remove the staples when the wound has healed. Some stitches dissolve over time; others must be picked up by your provider. Dissolvable stitches can be secured with strips of adhesive tape (Steri-Strips).
  • sterile tapes: You may wash or shower with the Steri-Strips in place. Clean the area with mild soap and water and gently pat dry with a clean towel or cloth. Do not drop, drag or rub the Steri-Strips. The Steri-Strips will fall off on their own in two weeks. After two weeks, carefully remove the remaining Steri-Strips. If the strips start to curl before it's time to remove them, you can cut them off.
  • fabric glue: The glue should be kept dry and the incisions should be kept away from direct sunlight. The glue will dry and fall off within five to 10 days.

What supplies are needed to change a bandage?

There are some basic supplies you will need to change a bandage. These supplies include:

  • Gauze.
  • Disposable medical gloves (optional).
  • surgical tape.
  • Plastic bag (to dispose of old dressings, tape, etc.).
  • Scissors.

What are the necessary steps to change a bandage?

There are several steps involved in changing the dressing for your incision. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions and will usually show you how to change the bandage. If you have any concerns, call your provider.

Step 1: Prepare the area for the dressing change.

First, you or the caregiver changing the bandage need a clean surface to work on. Pets must be moved to a different room and all jewelry must be removed by their caretaker. Wash the surface where the supply will be located with soap and water and cover with a clean cloth or paper towel.

(Video) 3M Steri-Strips™ Skin Closure Application | 3M Critical & Chronic Care Solutions

Step 2: Remove the old bandage.

First, you will prepare your new dressing. Open the gauze packs without touching the gauze. Then cut new strips of tape. Put it aside.

To remove the old bandage:

  1. Wash your hands by wetting them, adding soap, and washing for 30 seconds (about the time it takes to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"). Be sure to clean under your fingernails as well.
  2. Rinse your hands well and dry them with a clean towel.
  3. Put on medical gloves (if available) and loosen the tape holding the bandage in place.
  4. Remove the old bandage. Unless your doctor has told you to remove the bandage dry, you can moisten it if it sticks to the wound to help remove it. Throw away the old bandage and dirty medical gloves in a plastic bag.
Step 3: Clean and rinse the incision.

If you are showering, the incision will be cleaned during the shower. You can apply the bandage after showering following your doctor's instructions. If you are not showering, you should wash your incision as directed by your doctor.

Always inspect your incisions for signs of infection.

Step 4: Application of a new bandage.
  • If your surgeon has prescribed a topical ointment, apply a very thin layer of the ointment to the incision.
  • Hold a clean, sterile gauze pad by one corner and place it over the incisions. (This is the gauze that you opened and set aside in step 2.)
  • Tape all four sides of the cheesecloth. (This is the tape you already cut out in step 2.)
  • Put all the trash in the plastic bag, remove your gloves and put them in the trash bag.
  • Close the plastic bag and throw it away.
  • Wash hands.
  • Wash dirty clothes separately. Ask your supplier if you should add bleach during the wash cycle.

What can I do to reduce the risk of infection?

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of infection as you heal, including:

  • Always wash your hands before and after touching the incisions.
  • Follow the instructions of your doctor.
  • Follow your provider's instructions on how to change the dressing.
  • Avoid removing strips of tape, handling staples, fabric glue, or stitches.
  • Keep your incisions dry (make sure incision sites are dry after washing).

Risks / Benefits

What are the signs of a possible infection in an incision?

It is important to know the signs of an infection when caring for an incision. Infection is always a risk of surgery. Keep a record of all possible signs of an infection so that if you do notice a possible infection, it can be treated quickly.

Signs of a possible infection may include:

  • Wound with thick, fetid and opaque discharge. This is usually a white or cream color.
  • A bad smell from the incision.
  • Opening of the incision line: it becomes deeper, longer or wider.
  • Redness beyond the basic edge of the incision: The site should show signs of improvement and not be red.
  • Heat, hardness, around the incision.
  • Fever (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.4 degrees Celsius), sweating, or chills.
  • Variations in blood sugar levels in a person with diabetes.

What are the general risk factors for developing an infection?

People most at risk of developing an infection are those who have:

  • Diabetes.
  • A history of smoking.
  • Overweight.
  • poor nutrition.
  • Weak immune system (for example, a person inchemotherapyor older person).
  • Recent emergency surgery or a lengthy surgical procedure.
(Video) Surgical Staple Removal Nursing | How to Remove Surgical Staples

Recovery and Prospects

What are the limits of activity during the healing of an incision?

Staying active improves healing by improving blood flow. After some types of surgery, your doctor may recommend that you avoid lifting, pulling, stretching, exercising, or playing sports for a month after surgery. Following these instructions will prevent the incision line from opening up and promote healing.

How long does it take for an incision to heal?

Good incision care can help make sure it heals well and infection doesn't develop. In most cases, a surgical incision heals in about two weeks. More complex surgical incisions will take longer to heal. If you have other medical conditions or are taking certain medications, your healing time may be different.

(Video) Application of Steri Strips

When to call the doctor

When is it important to call the doctor?

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Bleeding that does not stop with pressure.
  • If there are signs of infection.

If you have questions or confusion about incision care instructions, call your doctor.

A note from the Cleveland Clinic

When caring for an incision, it is important to strictly follow your doctor's instructions. If you have any questions about your instructions, please contact your provider.


How many days should steri-strips stay on after surgery? ›

The Steri-Strips will fall off on their own within two weeks. After two weeks, gently remove any remaining Steri-Strips. If the strips start to curl before it's time to remove them, you can trim them. Tissue glue: The glue should be kept dry and the incisions should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Should I remove steri-strips over stitches? ›

Steri-strips need to stay in place for five to seven days to allow the wound to heal. To remove steri-strips you need to soak them in water, this can be done in a bath without bubbles. Once the steri-strips are wet the adhesive will come unstuck.

Why do doctors use steri-strips instead of stitches? ›

Steri-Strips are sometimes a better option than regular stitches because they don't need to be sewn into the skin and can be easily removed when the wound heals.

What do you put on an incision after steri-strips fall off? ›

Once steri-strips fall off, or are removed, the wound will need to be cleansed with a gentle soap and water followed by a thin application of Vaseline or Aquaphor over the wound. Repeat these steps daily until sutures are removed. A bandage may be applied if located in an area of friction.

Can you leave Steri-strips on too long? ›

The steri-strips should not stay on more than 14 days. If they haven't fallen off by day 14, you should remove them yourself.

When can you shower with Steri-strips? ›

You may shower over the steri-strips, (after 48 hours and dressing is removed), blot gently to dry. 4. If steri- trips begin to lift at the corners, you may use a small scissor to trim off these corners.

Can I shower after removing steri-strips? ›

After 48 hours, the wound can get wet during everyday cleaning activities (showering, handwashing), but otherwise keep the wound dry. 3. If the edges of the Steri-Strips begin to come loose, trim the free ends with a pair of scissors.

How can I make my surgical incision heal faster? ›

Six ways to speed up the healing process after surgery
  1. Give your body proper healing energy. ...
  2. Get out of bed. ...
  3. Remember to hydrate. ...
  4. Grant yourself permission to rest. ...
  5. Get proper wound care. ...
  6. Follow instructions. ...
  7. An approach to healing.
Sep 1, 2020

Should you cover Steri-Strips with a bandage? ›

If you plan to be active (exercise, walking), cover the steri-strips and wound with a large band- aid or non-stick gauze bandage (e.g., Telfa can be purchased at pharmacy) and paper tape. The bandage size should be slightly larger than the wound. Change it once daily.

How long does it take for a surgical incision to heal? ›

Healing depends on your general health and the type of surgery you had. Large or deep surgery incisions can take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. People with medical problems or prescribed certain medications may take longer.

Do Steri-Strips keep wound moist? ›

The wound will be kept moist if steri- strips are applied. There will be a better cosmetic result if it is kept moist with Bacitracin or Neosporin and covered with a band-aid or gauze. If the wound is allowed to become dry and crusted, it will form a scab.

How do you know if your incision is healing? ›

Below we share some common wound healing factors that indicate your wound is well on its way to recovery:
  1. Scabs. Your general cuts and puncture wounds go through three stages of healing: bleeding, clotting, and scabbing. ...
  2. Swelling. Swelling is a sign that your immune system is repairing your wound. ...
  3. Tissue Growth. ...
  4. Scarring.

Should stitches be covered or uncovered? ›

Keep the wound bandaged and dry for the first day. After the first day, wash around the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.

Can Steri-Strips still stay on after 1 week? ›

The new Steri-strips should stay on for another 1-2 weeks. Again, you can shower over these but still should not soak or scrub. They usually fall off after 2 weeks, but if they stay on longer than 2 weeks, you can take them off.

Can Steri-Strips cause infection? ›

Wet Steri-Strips can fall off before the wound is healed or trap moisture in the healing wound. This can let bacteria grow and cause an infection.

Can I get my stitches wet after 7 days? ›

After 48 hours, surgical wounds can get wet without increasing the risk of infection. After this time, you can get your stitches wet briefly with a light spray (such as in the shower), but they should not be soaked (for example, in the bath). Make sure you pat the area dry afterwards.

Do Steri strips prevent scarring? ›

Steri-stips and scar pads help reduce tension on the scars and the occlusion/compression from the scar pad can help prevent the formation of a hypertrophic scar or keloid.

What are the stages of incision healing? ›

The complicated mechanism of wound healing occurs in four phases: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodelling.

How do you remove Steri strips after 2 weeks? ›

Answer: Removing Steri Strips

If they are still having trouble removing the Steri Strips, I advise them to use adhesive remover pads. These are available at most pharmacies. Gently rubbing the adhesive remover pads over the Steri Strips will allow you to remove them painlessly.

Which ointment is best for wound healing after surgery? ›

Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment can be used during any stage of the healing process. If necessary, cover the wound with a Elastoplast plaster, dressing or compress. Change plasters, dressings or compresses daily unless recommended otherwise by your doctor. 4.

What to do after staples are removed? ›

Once you no longer need to keep your stitches or staples dry, gently wash them with soap and water whenever you take a shower.

Do incisions heal faster covered or uncovered? ›

No matter what you do, your wound may heal with or without a scab, a protective covering that the skin forms over the wound. However, if you keep the wound covered and moist, you're less likely to end up with a scab. And if you do end up with a scab, it will heal more quickly.

Can you put anything on a healing incision? ›

Gently wash it with soap and water to remove the crust. Do not scrub or soak the wound. Do not use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine, which can harm the tissue and slow wound healing. Air-dry the incision or pat it dry with a clean, fresh towel before reapplying the dressing.

What are the best vitamins for healing after surgery? ›

Several essential vitamins, e.g., B12, C, D, and E, have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and may promote wound healing.


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