With a needle and a bit of string, you can save someone's life.
Unfortunately, some wounds can't close naturally on their own. Leaving them open can prevent healing. Worse, it may lead to infection, pain, and further bleeding.
But many people shy away from sutures because you're sticking a needle through someone's skin!
Learning to suture can not only be a life-saving procedure, it can prevent your next trip into the woods from becoming a disaster. Here are 9 tips for learning sutures.
What Are Sutures?
Sutures are when you use a string and needle to close someone's skin for a particularly deep or large wound. You may have heard of sutures referred to as stitches, and that's also correct.
Sutures and stitches are two words that are virtually interchangeable in most contexts, but they do have distinct meanings. Sutures refer to the string that you use to close a wound, while stitches (or stitching, rather) refer to the process of closing the wound--although you can also use suture as a verb to describe that process.
When Do You Need Sutures?
Usually, when you can see layers of fat or other tissue, that's a sign you need sutures.
As mentioned above, some wounds cannot close on their own. Leaving them open may slow or stop the healing process altogether. An untreated wound may open up more, causing more bleeding, and that exposed inner tissue may get infected--which is going to make your day even worse.
However, your own suture skills are NOT a substitute for a trained medical professional. Doctors use a numbing agent so that the needle can't be felt, which means if you do it it can be painful. They do this every day, and they'll know things you don't.
Further, improperly-done sutures can leave ugly scars. And depending on the severity of a wound, the person could lose feeling or function in that area.
Keep a Good Suture Kit Handy
While you can do sutures with just about any needle and thread, it pays to have a good suture kit nearby. These kits will have all the essentials: dissolving string, scissors, sterilized needles, forceps, and more. In a pinch, you won't have time to sterilize a needle, and that needle won't be the curved kind ideal for suturing!
Better yet, there are practice kits that will allow you to practice on a suture pad rather than on a living, breathing human being. That will be a crucial way to experiment on various types of simulated wounds before you stumble upon the real thing!
Suture kits are like a spare tire iron or container of coolant in the back of your car. Toss one in there and leave it. Any time you go on a trip that puts you half a day or longer from medical services, bring that suture kit along just in case.
Nine Tips When Doing Sutures
When it comes to sutures, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. This is a medical procedure, so proceed with caution.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
As we mentioned, suture practice kits are affordable, and they will give you the necessary skills you need before an emergency happens. If someone gets wounded, you can't predict how you will react. You may be high on adrenaline, you might be shaking, and you might start to have a panic attack.
Suture practice beforehand on your suture pad will eliminate having to experiment and learn on the go when you're treating a real wound. That sort of know-how is invaluable.
If you really want to get a feel for the real thing, you can practice sutures on a piece of chicken meat with skin, a pig belly, or a banana. Though your suture pad will do a great job of simulating all these things.
2. Keep Everything Clean!
This should come as no surprise. You want to avoid infection. If your tools are not sterilized, use boiling water to do so.
Wash your hands thoroughly. Clean and irrigate the wound, making sure the surrounding skin is likewise clean. All it takes is one fleck of foreign material to lead to a nasty infection.
3. Use Your Tools
You can use your hands, but it's ideal that you hold the needle with a needle driver, and manipulate the skin on the other side of the wound with the tissue forceps.
Using your fingers alone can get messy when blood and sweat come into the equation. Further, the driver and the forceps allow for more precision. They'll make sure the wound lines up and you leave the least noticeable scar possible.
4. Learn the Different Types of Sutures
Each wound requires unique types of sutures. An interrupted suture might be best for a small wound, while a continuous suture will be ideal for a long, straight wound.
5. Make Sure Your Sutures Are Tight, but Not Too Tight
Sutures that are loose will leave the wound open and exposed to infection. Making them too tight will break the skin and require more sutures.
6. Tie off Your Sutures
Don't just tie them and call it a day, you need to knot the sutures. You don't want to have to come back and do them again!
7. Choose Your Thread Wisely
Doing sutures is causing more trauma to a wound. Overlarge thread can cause unnecessary damage that requires further healing.
8. Remove The Sutures
Typically speaking, you want to remove sutures on the face and scalp within 5-7 days. On the torso or extremities, 7-10 days. Of course, resort to a physician after making the sutures.
9. Use Absorbable Sutures Where Possible
These are sutures that the body absorbs, meaning there's no need for a painful removal afterward. That will cause less trauma and less scarring in the end.
Hone Your Suture Skills
Sutures can be an essential skill for a budding doctor or just someone who spends a lot of time outdoors. You could save someone's life, or prevent them from losing a finger. And all it takes is a few minutes of practice to learn the basics!
Best of all, you don't need to go into this alone. Sign up for Medical Creations' professional suture training. They'll teach you all the ins and outs. When you take your sutured friend to the doctor, the doctor might just give you a high five on your suture job!