After some surgeries that require incisions, such as a hysterectomy , medical professionals sometimes apply bandages called Steri-Strips (also known as butterfly closures or butterfly sutures). They are used to hold the incision surface together during healing.
If you have recently undergone surgery, you may be advised to wait until they naturally fall off or alternatively be asked to remove them after a certain number of days. In the latter case, some precautions should be taken to avoid reopening the incision and infection.
About sterilizing strips
Steri-Strips are small pieces of tape, but they adhere to the skin better than regular tape. They are generally used to close superficial incisions rather than deep ones. For example, absorbable sutures can be applied to cover most of the incision and then Steri-Strips can be used to hold the top layer of the skin in place.
From a medical point of view, Steri-Strips are a wonderful invention. They can hold small contours of the body together that require an incision until it heals. They can also reduce the scars that can form with traditional sutures (called stair tread scars).
The problem is that many people are not sure how long they should stay in place. And, once the time is right, eliminating them can be challenging.
Always follow your doctor's instructions, even if the Steri-Strips are itchy or irritating. Unless your healthcare professional has given you specific instructions on when to remove the strips, call the office and do not make potentially harmful assumptions.
In some cases, the surgeon will apply additional glue (such as benzoin tincture) to hold the Steri-Strips in place. If so, they will most likely need to be removed in the surgeon's office with a glue remover.
How to remove the sterile strips
We have all heard that the best way to remove the patch is by pulling quickly and sharply. But the same logic is not apply to Steri-Strips. Butterfly stitches are much stickier than standard patches. If you throw them hard, you are more likely to do more harm than good .
When to remove the Steri-Strips:
- Wash your hands with soap and water, rubbing under your nails.
- Carefully remove each strip from one end, little by little.
- While pulling the strip, take your other hand and place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the incision to keep the skin stable. Do not pinch the skin as this can open the wound.
- Slowly pull the strip horizontally towards the skin until it reaches the incision point. Do not pull vertically as this increases the tension on the skin.
- Now repeat the process on the other side. Do not hurry.
- When finished, pinch both ends of the strip with your fingers and gently lift it up.
- If the strips are crisp and stuck to your skin, don't pull . You don't want to remove the crust.
- If the strip is stuck, you can take a moistened cotton pad and gently blot the stuck area. Do not soak the scab as it may fall off prematurely. Now wait 30 seconds and see if you can remove the strip without resistance.
- If you cannot remove the strip easily, leave it on. To avoid accidentally snagging loose ends, take clean nail scissors and trim them.
After removing all Steri-Strips, gently wash the affected area with soap and water and pat dry (do not rub). If you have stains of dried blood or dead skin, do not remove them; let them fall by themselves.
Make sure to protect the affected area until completely healed, avoiding contact with lotions or clothing that may cause irritation. Stay tuned for any signs of infection.
When not to erase
Instead of removing the strips, you can always wait until the strips fall off on their own. In fact, many surgeons recommend it. Showering and using natural oils on your skin will allow the strips to peel off on their own, usually after about 2 weeks .
If your surgeon recommends removing the Steri-Strips, this usually happens around the seventh day after surgery. Still, it is not necessary to remove the strips, especially if the scabs around the Steri-Strips look tight. Waiting will not harm or change the appearance of the wound.
If the ends of the Steri-Strips start to curl, just trim the edges to keep them neat.
When to call your healthcare provider
If your Steri-Strips come off and the incision opens, see your doctor right away. Re-closing an open incision can be challenging and, if not done correctly, can lead to "ulterior motives," a condition in which the open space will not fill evenly during healing and lead to an unsightly scar. Worse still, it can lead to an infection.
If you notice any signs of infection , such as pain, swelling, redness, discharge, or fever, contact your doctor immediately.
Frequently asked questions
How to clean a wound with Steri-Strips?
Your healthcare professional will likely advise you to wait 24 to 48 hours before wetting the area. Then use a mild soap to gently clean the affected area. Do not rub the Steri-Strips. Dry the affected area well with a clean towel.
How are Steri-Strips used?
Half of the Steri-Strip will be transferred to one side of the wound. The other half will move to the other side, drawing the skin together to close the incision.