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Does it hurt when stitches are removed?

Having stitches removed is often a source of anxiety for patients. Many wonder if getting stitches taken out will be painful. The good news is that for most people, stitch removal is quick and relatively painless.

What to Expect During Stitch Removal

Stitch removal is a simple office procedure done by your doctor or nurse. They will use a small pair of sterile scissors or a scalpel to cut the knot of each stitch and gently pull the thread out. You may feel some mild tugging or pressure as the stitches are removed, but it should not be very painful.

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect during stitch removal:

  • The provider will clean the area around the stitches with an antiseptic.
  • They will snip the knot at the end of each stitch using sterile scissors or a scalpel.
  • Using sterile forceps, they will gently pull the thread to remove it.
  • As each stitch comes out, you may feel some mild tugging or pressure.
  • Removing all the stitches usually takes just a few minutes.
  • The provider will clean the area again once all stitches are out.

What Does Stitch Removal Feel Like?

Most patients report that getting stitches removed feels like a quick pinching or tugging sensation as each suture is pulled out. It may be slightly uncomfortable, but is very brief. Any soreness felt istypically minor and temporary.

On a pain scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most painful, getting stitches removed is usually around a 2 or 3 for most people. Some compare it to the feeling of getting an injection or having a bandaid peeled off.

However, everyone has a different pain tolerance. Some say getting stitches out feels like nothing, while others may find it more irritating. The level of discomfort can depend on:

  • Where on your body the stitches are located
  • How sensitive that area of skin is
  • The skill of the provider removing them
  • How inflamed or healed the area is
  • If scar tissue has formed around the stitches
  • Your own individual pain threshold

Does the Type of Stitch Matter?

The feeling of getting stitches removed can sometimes vary based on the kind of stitching material used. Here are some common types of stitches and threads:

Stitch Type Material Used Feeling When Removed
Nylon A synthetic polymer thread Can pull at skin more due to wicking effect, so may cause some mild irritation
Vicryl An absorbable synthetic thread Usually smooth removal with minimal tugging
Monocryl Another absorbable synthetic Can be gripped easily by forceps so comes out smoothly
Stainless steel Metal wire Will feel stiffer than synthetic threads when removed

In general, natural absorbable stitches like Vicryl tend to come out the easiest as they begin dissolving on their own within the body over time. Non-absorbable stitches like nylon may require a bit more tugging to remove once healed.

How Long Does Removal Take?

The time needed for stitch removal can vary based on a few factors:

  • Number of stitches – The more stitches you have, the longer the removal process.
  • Location on body – It may take extra time and care to remove stitches in delicate areas like the face.
  • Age of stitches – Older, healed stitches come out quicker than newer ones.
  • Provider skill – An experienced doctor can remove them faster.

On average, most patients can expect stitch removal to take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on these variables. Some key points about timing include:

  • Facial stitches may take 10-15 minutes to remove
  • Stitches along an incision or laceration can take 10-20 minutes
  • Just a few stitches could be removed in 5 minutes or less

Plan on scheduling enough time to comfortably get your stitches taken out without feeling rushed. It’s a quick and simple process in most cases.

Does It Hurt Less if Stitches Are Left in Longer?

Usually there is no significant difference in pain level whether stitches are removed after 4 days or after 4 weeks. However, leaving them in for longer has some advantages:

  • The incision has more time to completely close up
  • Scar tissue may be thicker and tougher
  • The skin will adhere less tightly to the stitches

This can make the removal process feel smoother. Stitches left for longer periods tend to “spit themselves out” more easily since the body has sealed the wound site. There’s less tugging involved.

With that said, stitches are not meant to stay in forever. They should be taken out once the laceration or incision has adequately healed, which is typically within 4 to 21 days.

Can You Remove Stitches at Home?

It’s strongly advised that you have a doctor remove any stitches you’ve received. They have the proper sterile technique and training to take them out safely.

Removing stitches on your own at home carries risks:

  • You may cut surrounding skin tissue
  • Stitches could snap and become stuck under skin
  • May lead to wound re-opening and infection
  • Could create larger, more visible scarring

Removing your own stitches can do more harm than good. Leave it to your healthcare provider for the safest, most painless removal process.

Tips for Minimizing Discomfort

Here are some tips to help make stitch removal less unpleasant:

  • Take over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen an hour before removal to reduce anticipated pain.
  • Apply a topical anesthetic cream to the area beforehand to numb it.
  • Distract yourself by listening to music, watching a video, or thinking of something else.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply when the stitches are being removed.
  • Remind yourself it will be over quickly.
  • Schedule the appointment for first thing in the morning so you don’t dread it all day.

Talk to your doctor if you’re very anxious about stitch removal. They can help take precautions to minimize discomfort as much as possible.

What Happens After Stitches Are Out?

Once your stitches have been removed, you will have an open incision or wound again. It is normal for this to look slightly red or raw after the sutures have come out.

Your doctor will place a sterile bandage over it and recommend proper wound care to promote healing. This may involve:

  • Cleaning the area daily with mild soap and water
  • Applying antibiotic ointment
  • Taking care not to reopen or reinjure the site
  • Keeping it covered until fully closed

Proper wound care is vital for avoiding complications like infection or poor healing after stitch removal. Be diligent about following your provider’s post-procedure instructions.


While stitch removal may sound unpleasant, the good news is most patients tolerate it very well. With efficient providers, sterile technique, and distraction methods, any discomfort is brief and manageable for the majority of people.

Knowing what to expect can help ease anxiety about the procedure. Remind yourself the pinch and tugging will be over quickly. Take care of the incision site properly afterward, and the rest of the healing process will continue to go smoothly.