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How to optimize scar healing: Stitches

What are stitches?

Sutures, also known as stitches, are small loops of different types of fine, resistant thread. Their job is to hold a surgical wound together so that it forms a neat line and doesn’t gape or widen. They can be made of many different materials, either natural or synthetic, which are chosen to minimize the chances of adverse reactions.

Other than classic stitches, some small wounds can be closed using “butterfly stitches” (small pieces of adhesive tape) or special glue, while large surgical wounds (apart from on the face) are often closed with staples.

Some are dissolvable and will disappear on their own after a period of weeks (usually about 60 days), while others are non-dissolvable and will need to be removed after a set period depending on the site of the wound. Your doctor will tell you when to make an appointment to have them taken out, but the table below offers some guide timescales :

How long do stitches stay in for?




7-9 for adults,
6-8 for children

and neck

4-6 for adults
and children

abdomen, back

7-12 for adults,
7-9 for children


8-10 for adults,
7-9 for children


8-12 for adults,
7-10 for children


10-12 for adults,
8-10 for children

Will my stitches leave scars?

Some stitches leave no marks at all because they run entirely beneath the surface of the skin (the subcuticular technique favored by plastic surgeons). Traditional stitches that look like knots sewing the wound together can leave little white dots of scar tissue, especially if left in too long, so make sure your doctor has given you clear instructions on when they need to be removed. Surgical technique is paramount as overly tight stitches can cause track marks as well as altering the shape of the wound. Staples will often leave small dots behind, which is why they are never used on the hands or face.

What to look out for

In the days following an operation or procedure, your wound should look pink and it may well ooze clear fluid or small amounts of blood. Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • redness spreading from the wound site
  • bleeding that won’t stop by applying pressure with a clean gauze
  • severe pain out of proportion with what your doctor told you to expect
  • white or yellow pus oozing from the wound
  • you feel feverish or generally unwell

Find out how to optimize your scar’s healing once your stitches are out