Asking how to remove stitches is answered with difficulty. In reality, you shouldn't remove stitches on your own because there is a risk of infection. Most importantly, you should never remove stitches from surgeries on your own. An infection at a surgery site can easily lead to severe infection or a wound reopening. Despite warnings, some people may at least want to remove the stitches from small cuts, and while this should be done under a doctor's care, there is a way to do it at home.
Stitches are usually one seam only, unlike sewing on cloth. Each stitch has to be removed individually. Most resemble a small tied knot that has pulled the skin together. Before planning to remove the stitches, gather together a few items. These include a pair of tweezers, nail or small scissors, rubbing alcohol, and possibly a magnifying glass to see the stitches. The tweezers and the scissors should be sterilized or soaked in alcohol prior to beginning, and the stitched area should be cleaned with alcohol and allowed to dry before you begin.
The first step is to cut the stitch. Start at one end of the stitched area, and cut only one stitch at a time. If you note excessive bleeding when you cut a stitch, it is not ready to be removed. You may note a tiny bit of blood, which is relatively common. You want to cut the stitch as close to the knot on one side of the knot instead of through it. Gently either thread the bottom part of the scissors underneath the stitch, or use only the top of the scissors, and be careful not to cut yourself!
When the stitch is cut, you can remove stitches by grasping the longer side with tweezers and pulling it out. If you did cut straight through the knot, all is not lost. Simply grasp a former knot point and pull through on one side. Then repeat on the other side. The last thing you want to do is pull any of the knotted part through the skin as this can cause injury or reopen a cut. After each stitch is removed, dab the area with alcohol before moving onto the next stitch. Repeat this step when you've removed them all.
A few don'ts should be observed when you remove stitches:
- Don't remove your stitches prior to the recommended time for removal, usually ten to 14 days.
- Don't remove surgical stitches.
- Don't continue to remove stitches if a wound reopens and starts bleeding.
- Don't, out of fear of embarrassment, neglect seeing the doctor if you've removed a stitch and the wound reopens.
If stitches drive you crazy — they can grow increasingly itchy as wounds heal — consider asking your doctor to place stitches that don't require removal. Dissolving stitches can be used in place of the standard stitches. Surgical glue is also a fine alternative to stitches. Neither of these methods will require you to remove your stitches at home, which can be risky and is definitely not medically recommended.