Stitches vs bandages

When my youngest daughter cut the skin above her eye last year, I immediately took her to the emergency room. Since the cut was superficial and caused no real damage, the doctor bandaged her up and sent her on her way. Just last month, however, my older daughter suffered a similar injury – and the emergency-room doctor recommended stitches. Why the different treatments, and which one is preferred?

Doctors base their treatment decisions on the type of the wound and the age of the patient. For example, your doctor may have decided to stitch your older daughter’s cut because it was deep, widely separated, bleeding profusely or located over a joint that reopened the wound each time the joint flexed. Doctors may also prefer to use stitches on young children, who often can’t keep their dressings or “butterfly” bandages on.

However, doctors may use butterfly bandages, or steristrips, on cuts that are simple, shallow and located on a flat surface where the cut’s edges bond easily – the face or the back of the hand, for example. Also, your younger daughter’s doctor may have used steristrips because they leave less of a scar than sutures, since bandages allow no foreign material into a wound.

Whether a doctor uses bandages or stitches doesn’t matter, for both treatments achieve the same result: Joining the wound edges so they’ll heal.

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