Healing after surgery in most cases is uneventful. (Uneventful is a good thing when it comes to surgery and flying.) But sometimes uneventful healing can be interrupted by a stitch abscess which always looks way worse than it actually is.
Spitting stitches can occur whenever stitches are left in after surgery. In plastic surgery, we often close incisions just under the surface of the skin with stitches that dissolve over several months. If one of these stitches is a little too close to the skin surface, or works its way up towards the surface, it can cause a stitch abscess which is the skin’s reaction to a foreign substance (in this case the stitch). This is a lot like having a splinter in your foot or finger. It won’t get better until the splinter is removed. The same for a stitch abscess. It won’t get better until the stitch is removed. If you have had surgery and have a little area like in the photo above, give your surgeon a call and make an appointment to be seen. In the meantime, put some warm, moist compresses on the area and don’t freak out! It will be okay!
In most cases, a gentle probing with some sterile tweezers locates the offending stitch and it can be easily removed and the abscess resolves quickly. Sometimes, I will put a patient on antibiotics for a week or so if the inflammation is pretty wide spread or the patient feels lousy and/or is running a fever.
Back in the old days when silk and cotton sutures were used in the deep layers, patients could spit a stitch decades after surgery. Fortunately that is really rare these days although I have had a few patients myself spit permanent stitches years after surgery. It’s just one of those things that can happen but once the suture is removed, healing occurs quickly. Learn more here.
Thanks for reading. Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder