When Stitches Are Needed

It is important to determine if your wound needs to be closed by a doctor. Your risk of infection increases the longer the wound remains open. Most wounds that require closure should be stitched, stapled, or closed with skin adhesives (also called liquid stitches) within 6 to 8 hours after the injury. Some wounds that require treatment can be closed as long as 24 hours after the injury.

Wash the wound well and stop the bleeding, then pinch the sides of the wound together. If the edges of the wound come together and it looks better, you may want to consider seeing your doctor for treatment. If treatment may be needed, do not use an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment until after a doctor has examined the wound.

The location and type of wound also affects how soon it should be treated.

  • Wounds that have an increased risk of infection, such as dirty cuts or crush injuries, are usually closed within 6 hours after the injury. Occasionally a wound that has an increased risk of infection will not be closed until after 24 hours, or may not be stitched at all, so that adequate cleaning and antibiotic treatment can be done initially to prevent infection.
  • A cut with a clean object, such as a clean kitchen knife, may be treated from 12 to 24 hours after the injury depending on the location of the cut.
  • A facial wound may be treated to reduce scarring.