What Happens If You Leave Stitches in for Too Long?

What Happens If You Leave Stitches in for Too Long?


It’s highly likely that large chunk of you
watching this video have needed stitches at some point. It’s also likely that your doctor was super
weird about getting them removed on time. That’s because the consequences of leaving
them in there can be … not fun. External stitches, or sutures, are used to
hold two sides of an open wound together while they heal. As a general rule, if your cut is longer than
a centimeter, your doctor will probably use sutures to get it closed. Open wounds are traditionally not awesome
for a bunch of reasons. Infection is the main worry, because bacteria
and other nasty things can get in if there’s an opening. So stitches are great, but you should definitely
listen to instructions about removing them, for two reasons: The first is infection again. It might seem weird that the thing preventing
infection can also cause it, but sometimes the sutures can get buried. And yes, that’s a horrifying as it sounds. Patients who undergo eyelid surgery often
have this happen. Tissue can grow around the stitches and they
need to be dug out of their face. I mean, there’s anesthetic involved, but
still: ergh. The other reason you should get them removed
on time is entirely cosmetic and not such a big deal compared to life-threatening infection. After about 4-14 days, depending on their
location, stitches can cause permanent scarring. This gets nastier the longer they’re left
in. Because of the risk of scarring, if the wound
is on the patient’s face, doctors often won’t use stitches at all. There are other options, like a type of glue
that dissolves after a certain amount of time. It’s made out of a polymer called cyanoacrylate,
the sticky stuff that’s also used to make super glue. You may also have heard of those stitches
that dissolve after a while, but they’re mostly used for more serious injuries or surgeries
where doctors need to do some stitching inside body. They’re not gonna cut someone open again
just to remove the stitches, so they use special stitches made out of biodegradable organic
material instead, which are designed to be absorbed by your body. Sometimes, doctors will use these absorbable
sutures externally, too. But most of the time they stick to the regular,
non-absorbable kind, for a few main reasons: For one thing, absorbable sutures can take
a month or two to dissolve. But the wound usually heals way before that,
and then you’re just left with strings in your skin for no reason. They also tend to cause more inflammation
than regular sutures as the body absorbs them, which can lead to more scarring in some cases. Plus, regular sutures are often stronger,
which means there’s less of a risk of the wound opening up again. So, unless the stitches are inside your body
or your face is being held together with the medical equivalent of super glue, you’ll
probably have to get them removed. But it’s worth it, even if it does kind
of feel like your skin is unraveling as they’re being pulled out. Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to
our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you’re interested in what happens when
you leave other things inside your body, you can check out our video on what happens if
you don’t take out a splinter.

100 thoughts on “What Happens If You Leave Stitches in for Too Long?

  1. Ahh, this makes a lot of sense! I had my gallbladder removed and the stitches left some pretty visible scarring… because they were the biodegradable kind!

  2. i got stitches for a very tiny skin surgery, and they dumbass taking them out left a tiny bit in the skin. that was a year and a half ago, i can still see the blue string thru the skin send help

  3. When I was five I fell over and hit my head on a cart wheel at the super market and I was bleeding so much. But then my mom took me to the hospital and they glued my head closed.

  4. When I was a kid I jumped head first to a table and almost lost an left eye . . . Only time I remember having stitches . . .

    My memories are crying in car and the last stich hurted a lot ^_^ like I went full yelling and it took more than few tryes to get throug . . .

    Ah the fun memories . . . "Floor is lava" play is blindingly dangerous xD

  5. I recently got my finger glued back together after a nasty knife slice, in addition to butterfly stiches on it. I've always been told to not touch them and that they would fall out by itself in time. By then, the wound would have healed enough on its own. At least that's how I understood it. Glue and butterfly stiches are the best thing since sliced bread too, I had a way better experience with them than actual stitches. Quicker, cleaner and less discomfort. I banged my cut finger off thing's immediately after and the glue held it together, whereas stitches I'm certain would have ripped. Hurt like you wouldn't believe to learn that though! 😂

  6. I once had a 10cm deep cut on my foot. It ended up healing but the scar is wide and it took long to heal but i regret not going to the doctor to get stiches because it could have gotten infected

  7. Last summer I got a cut about an inch wide on my knee, needless to say I got stitches. But I got a thing called a keloid, how do they work?

  8. I had pilonidal cyst removal stitches left a week longer than recommended. From what I gathered a previous patient's wound had reopened and the doctor wanted to be super cautious. And by the end, they were infected and very itchy, I would not recommend.

  9. "likely that a few of you at one point needed to get stitches at one point" STORY TIME

    I was starting to get into wood carving, a really dangerous thing if you don't know simple knife safety, which I DIDN'T. I was carving out a little boat, about the size of a computer mouse, and the x-acto knife slipped and went right into my thumb, causing a wound that went to the bone… had to stitch that thing up myself… probably didn't do it right though, just barely went into the top part of the skin… but it did work!

    TL;DR screwed up carving a boat, stitched self up with sewing supplies.

  10. I have a stitch that got left inside my mouth. My gums receeded in one spot and I had to have a skin graft done to fix it before I could get braces. Well, they missed a stitch when the took them out, it's down in that narrow space where my bottom lip meets the gums and skin[?] Has grown around it. It's fine though, it can't be seen and it's not in an inconvenient place, but there was a time a few weeks ago that that spot was feeling sore for some reason? It only lasted a couple of days and that's the only time it's ever bothered me. I have a string in my body for no reason though.

  11. No external stitches for me yet! I /did/ have a major liver surgery scar glued/taped shut and pretty sure they had to use dissolvable sutures to seal up my liver after they removed the 1/3 of it with a benign tumor. I had never realized they could glue wounds/incisions shut like that until I woke up and saw it that way. XD Though, the tape made getting showers really annoying for a few weeks 'til it all finally fell off. 😡

  12. When I was younger, I fell face first off of a climbing frame. Of course, this was in kindergarten, and I was only 6 years old. I needed reconstructive plastic surgery and dissolvable stitches. The stiches were external, and so, the scar was too.
    That was fun.

  13. I understand what she's saying about them getting buried it happened on my foot between my toes (don't ask I was about 10 and didn't get my way) I got 3 stitches and two of them got buried and it hurt to get them removed even with local anesthesia.

  14. Leave things in your body, and it can become necrotic. They’re doing a surgery at my hospital right now because someone didn’t remove a splinter from his ass.

  15. I've actually never had stitches, I've had a bunch of injuries that could have used stitches but every time it was decided not to for various reasons. The most extreme was when my head got split open in a car crash, my brain was swelling and bleeding so they didn't even want to add the tiny bit of pressure that stitching the side of my head up would have caused.

  16. Lol I ran into a metal shelf when I was 10 and ripped the side of my mouth open and had to have stiches, hurt just as bad as when they had to remove them like a week later. I also had to have stiches in between my fingers from slicing my hand to the bone with a butcher knife -.- I don't remember how long they were in but that's the only one that left a scar.

  17. My brother had elousenomic granuloma on his head about 6 years ago but he still have the stitch mark . Sry my spellings are bad

  18. I just snipped mine at home and pulled them out. Docter didnt even give me a remove date so i just took them out onw the cut was healed. Ps they qwewnt the desolving kind i asked -_-

  19. Haha, got workmans compensation to pay to get my finger stitched backed together when I cut it off, but they fired me the next day, and I can't afford to go to the doctor to get them removed! Isn't America grand?

  20. I have had to remove lots of stitches as my job as assistant to a GP and even on time most of them are so hard to get to! Had people complain that taking them out hurts more than putting them in! Thankfully when they don't wait it's not yet skin but scabs covering the stitches!

  21. Had 7 stitches on my left eyebrow when i was a teenager. Teenagers are disgusting creatures. Of course i didn't follow the doc's orders and every 3 days i had to go the to clean up. Thanks to genetics and eyebrow hair no one can notice it now, but it was disgusting at the time.

  22. I got stitches in the same spot and place my brother got his stitches. The weird part is that we got it in the chin in different years

  23. i tried to take out my own stitches, and like an idiot i cut off the knot, so i couldn't pull them out and had to wait for them to work their way out. all the stitch scars look like legs on the cut scar. i tell people now it's a scorpion bite

  24. But… I got staples when I got my scalp cut open, doc just stapled my skull 6 times. Granted I was deployed in Afghanistan, but I'm not sure if that makes a difference or not.

  25. Yeah, I left stitches in my knee too long and it legit took me close to like 5 hours to DIG the freaking FRAGMENTS out. I could only bear the pain for 2-3 seconds, then I'd stop to cry and curse myself out for being so irresponsible for 5-10 mins before having to start the cycle all over again…and again…and again…

  26. In the philipine getting circumcised in an age of 10 year old i got Stitches in my private parts is a biodegradable stitches

  27. nowadays(a year after this video was released),someone created DERMACLIPS which is a new age stitching BAND-AID of sorts, no ACTUAL stitches/needles needed,so hopefully those become more widely adopted over the next few years and dont have any negative side effects

  28. I had 4 stitches on my face and i've heard that stitches on the face should be removed after 5-7 days. Mine was removed after 10 days but I think it didn't close enough and I am left with a tiny straight hole. It wasn't bleeding though :/

  29. Also if someone is interested, and happens to see a random comment on this video for some reason, the big difference with the medical superglue and normal one is, longer carbon chain. The molecule being physically bigger. It reduces the irritation caused by it.
    The medical glue is sometimes sold on apothecaries. It would make a good addition to your first aid pack. Just find out how it affects skin and wounds first. If you know what you are doing, applying it right after the injury is usually better than waiting a long time to get to a doctor.

    I'm not a doctor btw. Just someone who has experience with wilderness. Not professionally that either. A hobbyist. So don't begin doctoring yourself because i said it's good. Just.. get the glue into the bag. It doesn't weight much and in an emergency it's better to have it than not.

  30. I had dissolving stitches when I had minor surgery to cut an adult tooth out of my upper jaw. I thought it was cool as hell!

  31. Guys I had and appendix removal surgery in September and I got stitches removed and all but I realized that their is one left. I realized now in January…? Should I worry? Answers anyone?

  32. hahahah had a doctor mess up and they left 2 in, I didn't know until my skin started rejecting it and I dug them out with a knife

  33. SciShow has great content, and this is an important topic. Everything said in this video applies sometimes, but never applies all the time. (1) Listen to what your doctor says about sutures, there is a good reason we choose what we do and its far more complex than presented here. (2) If you trust the internet more than your doctor about sutures (or anything), find a new surgeon. Skin glue (cyanoacrylate) has its place but is inferior to non-dissolving monofilament sutures for many to most superficial wound closures because it can't fine-tune adjust the skin edges like suture can. And dissolving top sutures are like tissue-paper and can only be used in some closures. (3) open wounds actually ARE awesome. 100-million, 50-million, or 5-million years ago, our ancestors were developing methods to survive environmental bacterial exposure to OPEN wounds, allowing our bodies to naturally spit out the bacteria if we stepped on a twig or cut ourselves on a rock. Once sutures trap bacteria inside a sutured wound, we have no way to handle it. @theskinsurgeon

  34. Thx for giveing me the info because when i got hurt, my left side of my forehead opend up but it wasn't too big but it was still kinda big then i thought i was going to get stitches but no they put some liquid on my head then it just started to kinda burn and when it all finished i went home and i saw no stitches and then 4 or 5 years past and now im watching this video now i finally know the question I've been wanting to know of ,if they didnt use stitches on me then what did they use? And Now i know that they used a glue that dissolves because if they used stitches on my forehead ive would have a big scar. But thanks to that glue my scar is not that noticeable.

  35. I got a very deep cut in my arm last week and am supposed to get my stitches out in two days. Watching this because I wanted to know what would happen if there was an apocalypse tomorrow and couldn't get them out. Weird idea, but I needed to know.
    And for anyone that was curious, I'll give you advice, dont cut towards yourself with a boxcutter. I always knew that, but I did it anyways since I had more control that way… but I never thought it would end badly.

  36. Leaving stitches in too long also leaves scars (dots on side of wound) from where the stitches were as well

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