How To Suture A Wound

By Nick Oetken
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Qniemiec CC BY-SA 3.0
Qniemiec CC BY-SA 3.0
 
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It cannot be overstated enough about how learning how to give first aid properly is not only one of the most important survival skills you can learn, but one of the most important life skills you can learn in general.

 

One of the biggest aspects of first aid is suturing, which is defined as stitching together or closing the edges of either a medical incision or an open wound.

Most survival first aid kits have the necessary equipment for suturing, but it’s more important that you actually know how to suture a wound then it is to have the actual equipment. Suturing a wound the wrong way can not only cause the victim more pain, but it can also make their wound worse.

 

We will now cover how to suture a wound properly:

STEP #1 – DECIDING TO SUTURE THE WOUND

In general, you should only suture a wound when no other options are viable. The reason why suturing should be a last resort method is because ideally you should clean and bandage a wound and then allow it to heal on its own. You’d be surprised at how proficient the human body is at self-healing when left alone.

Surgical suture on needle holder. Packaging shown above.
Surgical suture on needle holder. Packaging shown above.

But if the wound is not staying together or if the bleeding won’t stop, then it’s safer to suture the wound rather than simply cleaning and bandaging it. Like we mentioned in our introduction, suturing only works when done the right way, and that’s what we’re going to learn about next.

STEP #2 – ASSEMBLING YOUR SUTURING EQUIPMENT

Hopefully, you’ll have all of the equipment that you need to suture a wound in your first aid kit. Here is a checklist for a complete suturing kit, in alphabetical order:

– Alcohol Prep Wipes
– Clean Water
– Gauze Pads
– Medical Bowl
– Medical Gloves
– Medical Scissors
– Needle
– Needle Driver
– Surgical Probe
– Suture Threads
– Syringe
– Tape
– Tweezers

Keep in mind that there is an extremely wide variety of sizes and types of suturing threads, needles, and so on available on the market. It’s wise to include a variety of different sizes in your first aid kit for different wounds. The smaller or more delicate the wound is, then the smaller size of needle and thread you will need.

In addition, make sure that all of your medical tools are clean and sterile before using them. If they are dirty, they can potentially cause an infection to develop in the victim when they come into contact with the wound.

STEP #3 – CLEAN THE WOUND

The third step in suturing a wound is clean the wound first. This is a more critical step than most people realize. Wear medical gloves and always use clean water for this step; contaminated water or an unclean wound are ingredients for an infection setting in, which you definitely don’t want. Use a syringe to get the water directly onto the wound, and be careful so you don’t cause significantly more pain or make the injury worse. Cleaning the wound also helps to slow down the bleeding if it hasn’t been stopped already. The wound should be made as clean as possible before you begin the actual suturing process.

Old refillable surgical thread supplier (middle of 20th century). Qniemiec CC BY-SA 3.0
Old refillable surgical thread supplier (middle of 20th century). Qniemiec CC BY-SA 3.0

STEP #4 – SUTURING THE WOUND

In very general terms, suturing is simply tying knots over the open wound to help the skin to close. Don’t forget that the health of the victim is your top priority, so you don’t want to make your knots too tight or complicated so that they only cause more pain, while also not making them too simple or loose so that they don’t close the wound properly.

Here is a checklist to run through when actually suturing a wound. As you’ll soon see, it’s a relatively simple process:

– Observe the wound and definitively confirm that it needs to be sutured rather than simply cleaned and bandaged; again, make sure that your medical gloves are on and that your medical equipment is sterile

– After cleaning the wound from Step #3, confirm that no debris of any kind is present inside the wound; if there is, remove it

– Use your needle driver to grab the needle and then thread it

– Always begin in the center of the wound and then work outward in both directions

– Keep a little bit of space in between each stitch; at least an eighth of an inch is a good rule of thumb

– Once the wound has been stitched, bandage it up with a gauze pad and tape

STEP #5 – PREVENTING AN INFECTION

Keeping the victim healthy after the suture is equally as important as the suturing process itself. The primary goal of this step is to ensure that an infection is avoided at all costs.

Here is a checklist to follow to ensure that the victim recovers properly and that a suture is avoided:

– Change the gauze pads out twice every day and use new tape with each changing

– Check on the condition of the wound and for an infection each time after swapping out the gauze pads

– If the wound does not begin healing after a few days or if you see evidence of an infection, re-open the wound carefully and check for debris inside the wound; carefully re-suture using the process described in Step #4

– Give the victim plenty of food and water and keep them lying down; if a headache sets in, place a bandana soaked in cool water over their forehead and make sure they get plenty of rest

– Get the victim to professional medical help as soon as possible

CONCLUSION

It doesn’t matter how complete or high quality your suturing kit is, it’s completely useless if you don’t know how to actually suture the wound properly. Consider signing up for a survival first aid class so you can practice suturing yourself and be ready for if and when you need to apply your skills in a real situation.

 
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