How Are Surgical Staples Removed?

Updated July 19, 2017

Surgical staples are small, sterile metal staples developed for use in place of traditional suturing to close a surgical wound. Stapling is more consistent and less time-consuming than suturing.

Staples are generally made of stainless steel or titanium, and may be used not only to close wounds in the skin, but also to connect some internal organs.

Surgical staples are fixed to the skin using a specialised stapler. Early staplers were made of stainless steel and were reusable, and while these staplers still exist, the new trend is plastic, disposable staplers.

Removing the Staples

Once a wound has healed, surgical staples can be removed by a physician or nurse, using a specialised and sterile staple remover, or by hand, depending on how long the staples have been in the wound and how embedded they are in the skin. Staples are usually removed after 7 to 10 days.

To remove staples by hand, a medical professional will use an instrument that resembles needle-nose pliers, and the staple will be bent and pulled out of the skin.

In either situation, the wound and surrounding area should be sterilised. Removal is a quick process and should take no more than a few minutes for an average-size wound.

Removing surgical staples is a relatively painless process, often described as a "tugging" sensation, though the removal process may cause more discomfort in traditionally tender areas. Sedation is not usually required.

Additional Information

When surgical staples are used to close a wound, it's important to keep the stapled area sterile and covered to avoid infection. The stapled area should be kept dry, which may make it difficult to bathe.

Surgical staples are most often used to close wounds on the head and after orthopaedic surgery. They are not appropriate for use on the face or hands, as nerves and tendons are close to the skin's surface in these areas.

Staples should not be removed by anyone other than a trained medical professional.

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About the Author

J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.