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What are Butterfly Stitches?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Butterfly stitches are not exactly stitches but are instead thin strips with an adhesive backing that can be used to close small wounds. They can be called steri-strips and butterfly bandages and are made by a number of companies. They may be used by doctors or in the home setting, though a doctor should examine any wound that is questionable. Butterfly stitches are best used on v-shaped wounds to close the edges of the wound together.

When you use butterfly stitches, you should be certain that you are working with a clean, disinfected wound. You should therefore start preparation by gently cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. You can’t use antibiotic ointments with these stitches since they won’t adhere to the wound. You should also not use them on areas that easily get sweaty, oily, or are subject to a lot of movement.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned the wound area, you can treat it with an antiseptic spray. Solarcaine® is a good choice though it can sting and a young child may not cooperate. Before applying the stitches make sure the wound is fully dry.

With clean hands, gently close the edges of the wound together, and begin applying the strips. They should be close together for maximum wound closure but should not overlap. Many suggest starting in the middle of the wound when applying butterfly stitches and working outward to each side. When you have closed the wound, do put two strips on each side of the stitches to keep them in place. These should overlap the stitches but should run perpendicular to the strips and parallel to the wound.

You can place an additional protective dressing after you have applied butterfly stitches. Simply place a non-stick wound pad over the stitched area and tape. Make sure the pad extends far past the stitch area. This way when you remove the pad to examine the stitches, you don’t accidentally remove the stitches.

You should leave the strips on for five to seven days, but since butterfly stitches are partly transparent, you can still examine the cut daily to look for signs of infection or signs that the strips are not closing the wound properly. If the wound continues to bleed after applying the stitches, it requires stronger, more traditional stitches. Any pronounced redness of the area, red streaks emanating from the wound, a cut that feels hot to the touch and/or is swollen may be infected. Should you suspect infection or the need for stronger stitches, do seek medical attention.

You should try when possible to keep the area with butterfly stitches dry to promote better healing. Getting the stitched area wet can stimulate bacterial growth increasing chance of developing infection. If you do get the area wet by accident but the strips still adhere, allow the area to air dry or gently pat it with a cotton cloth or towel to soak up extra moisture.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon988409 — On Feb 10, 2015

You should absolutely not be putting peroxide or alcohol on your wound! They can harm the tissue and delay healing. The peroxide yes, kills some germs but also kills your fibroblasts which are supposed to help you heal. Alcohol will burn, irritate possibly cause itching and inflammation in your wound. you should clean it under running water if it has stopped bleeding and if there are multiple debris still in it you need to go to the doctor.

You can use antibiotic cream with steri strips you just have to put it on the wound, not glop it all over your skin. The center of the steri strip (the part that goes over the wound itself) will be fine if you get some on it. Then watch for redness, red lines going toward the body, pus and other signs of infection. Once it's closed you can put ice on to bring down any swelling.

By anon944559 — On Apr 08, 2014

I was hit by a big stick on my eye and I got my eyebrow cut. It has been five days and the doctor put butterfly stitches in. Will it leave a scar forever?

By anon145104 — On Jan 21, 2011

in reply to anon3301, your son's scar will stay the same size, and will probably appear to shrink. I had a scar made by a hole in my cheek. I got the hole when I was about 10 or 11, and the scar has moved from the middle of my cheek to below my jawbone. It's nearly invisible.

By TuckerDwight — On Jun 15, 2009

My parents used butterfly stitches on my leg when I was 3 years old (I'm now 26) to close a cut that, in hindsight, she should have had a doctor stitch up. But at the time they did not realize the severity of the wound. I would *highly* suggest that you use some of the scar diminishing cream after you remove your son's butterfly stitches. The cream is expensive but well worth it. I have since used it on other small scars of mine and it has helped to diminish the appearance of the scars greatly. Since your son is still so young I would think that you would get great results from using some of the scar cream.

By anon30251 — On Apr 15, 2009

My son just suffered a cut on his head from playing on chairs. We ended up giving him butterfly stitches. I would suggest putting neosporin on the wound after it heals enough and using cocoa butter if it still shows after a few weeks.

By anon3301 — On Aug 22, 2007

My 1year old infant had to have 10 butterfly stitches applied to his face after an accident. Any idea if the scar or stitches will show after he gets better? Or if the scar will grow with him as he gets older?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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