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How to Remove Steri-Strips Safely After Surgery

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Steri-Strips, also known as butterfly stitches or butterfly closure stitches, are sometimes used to hold skin together after a surgical incision or a cut into tissue. Your healthcare provider may use Steri-Strips in place of stitches or add to them to aid in external skin healing.

If you have just had surgery, you may be asked to wait until these bandages fall off naturally, or you may be asked to remove them after a certain number of days. If it’s a second incision, you’ll need to take some precautions to prevent the incision from reopening and/or causing infection.

This article will explain how Steri-Strips work, how to care for and safely remove them, and when to contact your healthcare provider.

Laura Porter / Verywell


What is a sterile strip?

Steri-Strips are small bandages that stick to the skin better than regular bandages. They are often used to close shallow rather than deep parts of an incision. They can also help hold the skin in place after the stitches have been removed.

For example, absorbable stitches that remain in the body and will eventually dissolve can be used to close most incisions and then a sterile dressing along with the outermost layer of skin.

From a medical point of view, the Steri-Strips are an amazing invention. They may retain small, contoured areas of the body until the wound heals. They can also reduce the scarring that traditional sutures can create, known as “ladder” scars.

For these reasons, they are often used after an incision in the lower abdomen, such as a hysterectomy to remove the uterus.

Summarize

Steri-Strips are bandages used to help close the outermost layer of skin after surgery and can help reduce scarring. You can use them in addition to absorbable stitches or after the stitches have been removed to hold the skin together.

Click Play to learn how to remove sterile strips

How to remove sterile strips

If they don’t fall off on their own after about 10 days, your healthcare provider may recommend removing them.

Always follow your healthcare provider’s orders even if Steri-Strips cause itching or irritation. If your healthcare provider doesn’t provide specific instructions on when and how to remove the patches, call the office and avoid making potentially harmful assumptions.

In some cases, the surgeon will apply an adhesive such as benzoin alcohol, an alcohol solution, to help the Steri-Strips stay in place. If so, they will likely need to be removed in the surgeon’s office with adhesive remover.

We’ve all heard that you can remove the power belt with one quick, jerky motion. But the same logic do not do applies to Steri-Strips. Butterfly stitches are much more sticky than conventional bandage aids. If you forcefully pull them, you may end up doing more harm than good.

When it’s time to remove your Sterile Tape, your healthcare provider may give instructions such as:

  1. Wash hands with soap and water, clean under fingernails.
  2. Gently peel off each strip from one end, a little at a time. To loosen the adhesive, your healthcare provider may recommend soaking the area with a Sterile Patch.
  3. While pulling the bandage, take your other hand and place your thumb and forefinger on both sides of the incision to keep the skin steady. Do not pinch the skin as this may open the wound.
  4. Slowly pull the strip back across your skin until it reaches the incision point. Do not pull vertically as this increases the tension on the skin.
  5. Now repeat the process on the other side. Take your time.
  6. Once done, grip both ends of the fabric strip with your fingers and lift gently.

If the bands become scaly and stick to the skin, don’t glue. You don’t want to remove the scab. You can take a damp cotton ball if the patch is stuck and gently dab the area. Please do not soak the scales as this may cause the scabs to fall off prematurely. Now wait 30 seconds and see if you can remove the band without resistance.

If you cannot remove the strip easily, leave it as is. To avoid accidentally severing the loose ends, grab a clean pair of nail clippers and cut them off.

After removing

After all Sterile Strips have been removed, gently wash the area with soap and water and then pat — do not rub — to dry. The wound is probably still healing and you don’t want to upset it.

If you have patches of dry blood or dead skin, don’t remove them; let them fall out.

Be sure to protect the area until it is completely healed, avoiding contact with lotions or clothing that could cause irritation.

In general, you will want to expose your skin to air after removing the patch. If there is visible oozing, you may need a bandage, but call your healthcare provider if there are any oozing or discharge.

When there is no need to remove

Instead of removing the bands, there is always an option to wait until the bands fall off on their own. In fact, many surgeons will recommend this.

Showering and the skin’s natural oils will allow the bands to fall off on their own, usually in about two weeks.

If your surgeon recommends removing the Sterile Strips, it will usually be around the 7th to 10th day after surgery. Even then, removing the bands isn’t necessary, especially if the flakes around the Steri-Strips look dense. Waiting will not harm or change the outcome of the wound.

If the ends of the Sterilizer Strip start to curl, trim the edges to keep them neat.

Summarize

You can either wait for the sterile Strips to fall off or follow instructions from your healthcare provider to gently remove them. If you cannot remove the strips easily, leave them as is. Do not rub the wound area or attempt to remove dried blood or dead skin.

When to call a healthcare provider

See your healthcare provider right away if your Sterile Bandage comes off and the incision opens.

Closing an open incision can be challenging and, if not done properly, can lead to “second intent,” a condition in which the opening will fill unevenly while it heals. and cause an unsightly scar. Worse, it can lead to infection.

Signs of infection

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of the following signs of infection:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Red
  • Drainage
  • Fever

Summary

Steri-Strips are bandages used to help close the incision after surgery. They are usually applied to the top layer of skin and can be used as an alternative to stitches, either in addition to them or after the stitches have been removed to help the wound heal.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to let the bandages fall off on their own or instruct you on how to carefully remove them little by little.

If the incision reopens after the Sterile Bandage is removed or partially removed, or if you have any signs of infection, such as swelling or fever, seek emergency medical attention.

A word from VeryWell

Even if the wound is itchy or you think it’s healed, it’s important not to remove the Sterile Bandage too soon. They are there to help close the skin and stay in place for better healing and for them to work their best, they need to stay in place.

If you want to remove the patch, ask your healthcare provider when is the best time to do so.

frequently asked Questions

  • How do you clean wounds with Steri-Strips?

    Your healthcare provider will likely suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours before wetting the area. Then, use a mild soap to clean the area gently. Avoid rubbing the sterile strips. Carefully dry the area with a clean towel.

  • How are Steri-Strips applied?

    Half of the Steri-Strip will be on one side of the wound. The other half will go to the other side, pulling the skin together to close the cut.

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