Steri-Strips, also called butterfly sutures or butterfly closures, are sometimes used to hold the skin together after a surgical incision or cut into tissue. Your healthcare provider may use Steri-Strips in place of sutures or in addition to sutures to support healing of the outer skin.
If you recently had surgery, you may be told to wait until these bandages come off naturally, or you may be told to remove them after a certain number of days. If the latter, you need to take some precautions to prevent reopening the incision and/or causing infection.
This article will explain how Steri-Strips work, how to care for and remove them safely, and when to contact your healthcare provider.
What are Steri-Strips?
Steri-Strips are essentially small pieces of tape, but fit better than regular tape. They are usually used to close the superficial or shallow part of the incision, not the deep part.
For example, absorbable sutures that remain in the body and eventually dissolve can be used to close most incisions and then suture the Steri-Strips along the outermost layer of the skin.
Steri-Strips are also sometimes used after stitches are removed as an extra layer of protection to help keep the skin in place.
From a medical point of view, Steri-Strips are an amazing invention. They hold small, contoured areas of the body together until the area heals. They can also reduce scarring, known as “step” scars, that can occur with traditional sutures.
For these reasons, they are often used after an incision in the lower abdomen, such as in a hysterectomy to remove the uterus.
Steri-Strips are bandages used to help close the outermost layer of skin after surgery to help reduce scarring. In addition to absorbable stitches, they can also be used to hold the skin together after the stitches are removed.
How to Remove Steri-Strips
If they don’t come off on their own after about 10 days, your healthcare provider may recommend that you remove them.
Even if Steri-Strips are itchy or irritating, always follow your healthcare provider’s orders. If your healthcare provider has not given you specific instructions on when and how to remove the strip, call the office and avoid making potentially harmful assumptions.
In some cases, the surgeon will use additional adhesive, such as benzoin tincture (an alcohol solution), to help the Steri-Strips stay firmly in place. If so, they may need to be removed with adhesive remover at the surgeon’s office.
We’ve all heard that you can remove a Band-Aid with a quick, jerking motion.But the same logic does not Works with Steri-Strips. Butterfly stitches are stickier than standard Band-Aids. If you pull hard on them, you could do more harm than good.
When it’s time to remove your Steri-Strips, your healthcare provider may provide the following instructions:
- Wash your hands with soap and water and clean under your nails.
- Gently peel each strip from one end, a little at a time.
- Use your other hand to place your thumb and index finger on either side of the incision to keep the skin steady as you pull the tape. Do not pinch the skin, as this may open the wound.
- Slowly pull the strip back to skin level until the incision point is reached. Do not pull vertically as this will increase tension in the skin.
- Now repeat the process on the other side. Take it easy.
- When you’re done, pinch the ends of the strip with your fingers and lift gently.
- Do not pull if the strip is scabbed and stuck to the skin. You don’t want to remove the scab.
- If the strip gets stuck, you can take a damp cotton ball and gently rub the area. Do not soak the scab, as this may cause it to fall off prematurely. Now, wait 30 seconds and see if you can remove the strap without resistance.
- If you can’t easily remove the strip, keep it. To avoid accidentally snagging loose ends, take a pair of clean nail clippers and trim them away.
This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.
Once all Steri-Strips have been removed, gently wash the area with soap and water and pat – do not rub – dry. The wound may still be healing and you don’t want to irritate it.
If you have dry blood or patches of dead skin, don’t remove them; let them fall off.
Make sure to protect the area until it’s fully healed and avoid contact with potentially irritating lotions or clothing.
In general, once the strip is removed, you will want to expose the skin to the air. You may need to use a dressing if there is significant oozing, but call your healthcare provider if there is any oozing or discharge.
when not to delete
Rather than removing the strip, simply wait for the strip to come off on its own. In fact, many surgeons would recommend this.
The natural oils on the shower and skin can cause the strips to fall off on their own, usually in about two weeks.
If your surgeon recommends removal of Steri-Strips, it is usually around the 7th to 10th day after surgery. Even so, there’s no need to remove the strips, especially if the scabs around the Steri-Strips appear dense. Wait for results that won’t cause any 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.
You can wait for the Steri-Strips to come off or gently remove them as directed by your healthcare provider. If you can’t easily remove the strips, keep them. Do not rub the wound area or try to remove any dried blood or dead skin.
When to call a healthcare provider
If your Steri-Strips come off and the incision opens, seek medical attention right away.
Reclosing an open incision can be challenging and, if done incorrectly, can lead to “second intentions,” where gaps that open while healing fill up unevenly and lead to unsightly scarring. Worse yet, it can lead to infection.
signs of infection
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of the following signs of infection:
Steri-Strips are bandages used to help close incisions after surgery. They are usually used on the top layer of the skin, in addition to them, in place of stitches, or after stitches have been removed to help wounds heal.
Your healthcare provider may tell you to let these bandages come off on their own, or may instruct you how to carefully remove them a little at a time.
Seek emergency medical care if the incision reopens after the Steri-Strips are removed or partially removed, or if you have any signs of infection, such as swelling or fever.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you clean wounds with Steri-Strips?
Your healthcare provider may recommend waiting 24 to 48 hours before wetting the area. Then, gently clean the area with mild soap. Avoid rubbing Steri-Strips. Carefully pat the area dry 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 be on the other side, pulling the skin together to close the incision.