How to Stitch a Wound – The Basics
When SHTF, and the hospitals are all inaccessible, you’ll need to care for yourself and your family. And this could mean stitching your own wounds. As gross as it sounds, you might not have a choice. In theory, learning how to stitch a wound is easy- you just sanitize the affected area, take something for the pain, and stitch away. In reality, however, it can be much more challenging. To become comfortable stitching on a person, you’ll want to practice stitching on animal skin (more on that later).
Disclaimer: This article is NOT meant to serve as a replacement for standard medical care. If you’ve been severely cut, and are able to see a doctor, then do it. Don’t risk an infection and/or amputation by trying to stitch the wound yourself. The following techniques are designed for emergencies when professional medical care isn’t accessible.
Nomenclature to Know
First thing’s first- know that that term “stitch” and “suture” mean the same thing. So if you hear somebody say they’re going to “suture up that wound”, it just means they’re going to stitch it up. Both terms are used interchangeably online and in the medical community. I just wanted you to know this in case you decide to do more research after reading this article.
***END JOKE*** 🙂
Buying a Suture Kit
Before learning how to stitch a wound, you must buy a suture kit. This isn’t optional- it’s mandatory. A suture kit will have all of the essential items you need to close a wound:
- Hemostats (Needle Holder)
- Suture Needles
- Operating Scissors
- Benzoin Swabs
- Sterilization Material
- Medical Gloves
Don’t try to build your own makeshift suture kit out of things you find in your home. It won’t be the same and you’ll only increase your risk of infection that much more. Once you’ve purchased a kit, it’s time to learn how to stitch a wound.
How to Stitch a Wound – Step-By-Step
Remember, no two wounds are the same. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some require more advanced procedures than others. For minor to intermediate wounds, the advice in this article should suffice. For anything larger, I can’t guarantee a high likelihood of success. To really learn the ins and outs of how to stitch a wound, I encourage you to take a class. That way, you can learn from medical professionals in a hands-on environment.
Step #1: Sterilize
The first step of any surgical procedure is to sterilize the affected area. All good suture kits will come with sterilization material. Not only should you sterilize the affected area, but you should also soak your tools in the sterilization material. The best two sterilization liquids that you can use are hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol, both of which are very cheap and can even be purchased in bulk. For prepping purposes, stock up on 1-2 bottles of each one.
If you don’t have any sterilization material, take an open flame to all of your equipment. The goal is to kill as many microorganisms as possible. Failure to follow this step could result in an infection, and ultimately death. Finally, before starting the surgery, wash your hands and arms with anti-bacterial soap and put on some safety gloves. If you don’t properly sterilize the affected area, you could make yourself prone to an infection by the following microorganisms (SSI stands for “Surgical Site Infection”):
Step #2: Pain Relief
In the movie The Martian, Mark Watney (the main character) is left stranded on Mars and must perform a surgical procedure on himself to avoid infection. Not to spoil the movie, but right before the surgery he injects the area with an anesthetic to treat the pain.
If you have a local anesthetic, use it. Even if you have a high pain tolerance, it’s still recommended. The more pain you feel, the less you’ll be able to concentrate, and you can’t afford any mistakes when learning how to stitch a wound. Start by checking Amazon for pain relief solutions. If you can’t find anything there, do a Google search for “local anesthesia for sale”.
Step #3: Clean and Irrigate
Before you can begin stitching up the wound, you must clean out any foreign matter that’s inside. If you stitch up the wound with debris still inside, you’re at a higher risk of infection (and possibility amputating the affected area). Using disinfectant and a syringe, clean out the inside of the wound as thoroughly as possible. If there’s a stubborn piece of debris that just doesn’t want to come out, use a pair of sterilized tweezers to pull it out. Be careful that you don’t make the bleeding worse by removing the debris.
Step #4: Prepare The Edges
When learning how to stitch a wound, know that you must first use the scalpel to cut away any loose skin. If you try to stitch two flappy pieces of skin together, it’s likely that your stitches are going to break and you’ll need to redo the whole process. For a complete suture, this step must be performed. All good surgical kits will come with scalpels and surgical scissors that you can use to cut away the jagged and loose flesh. Make sure they’re properly sanitized before using them. Once you’ve completed this step, you can official begin stitching up your wound.
Step #5: Stitch The Wound
For most flesh wounds, you’ll be using something called “Non-Absorbable Suture Material”. This is basically stitching material that does NOT get absorbed into the body (you’ll need to remove them later). In most major surgeries, like the ones on internal organs, absorbable sutures are used so that the surgeons don’t need to reopen the individual to remove them. But since this is an open wound on the surface of your body, there’s no need for this. Learning how to stitch a wound is complicated, so rather than tell you how to do it, I’d rather show you:
Buy a Suture Practice Kit
I found a really neat suture practice kit on Amazon for $24.99 (click here to check it out). It comes with everything you need to practice suturing techniques on fake skin. This particular model is well-reviewed, and should allow you to hone your skills for the real thing. If you already have a suture kit, I recommend practicing on animal skin. In medical school, surgeons practice suturing on pig skin since it’s similar to suturing human skin. The more you practice now, the less likely you are to make a mistake when you learn how to stitch a wound in real life.
Alternative Methods of Wound Closure
Stitching isn’t the only way to close up a wound. Here are two other techniques that you could potentially use:
- Staples: These are typically used in wounds that are under high tension, like ones on the scalpel for example. One of the benefits of staples is that there’s a low risk of infection, the wound closes tightly, and they’re quick and easy to do. The disadvantage is that the wound is more likely to reopen if you don’t apply them just right.
- Tissue Adhesive: If you have some superglue lying around your home, and no surgical kit, you might not have any choice but to use it. Believe it or not, you can stop skin hemorrhages by applying superglue to a wound. I recommend doing more research on the topic to make sure you have the right kind of superglue for the job.
Similar to using staples, one of the disadvantages of superglue is that if you don’t do it right, there’s a high possibility that the wound will reopen. But if you use the right technique, there’s no reason why either of these two methods shouldn’t work. They can be great alternatives to learning how to stitch a wound.
How to Stitch a Wound – Bottom Line
Hopefully, when SHTF you won’t be in a position to have to use any of this stuff. But I tend to be a realist about things. If and when there’s no longer access to a hospital, it’s a super-useful skill to have. What if one of your children gets cut and there’s no doctor there to help them? Are you going to be able to stitch their wound? Heck, even after a natural disaster like a tsunami or earthquake, it’s possible that you won’t see a doctor for days. That’s why learning how to stitch a wound is so important.