As a method for closing cutaneous wounds, the technique of suturing is thousands of years old. Although suture materials and aspects of the technique have changed, the goals remain the same: closing dead space, supporting and strengthening wounds until healing increases their tensile strength, approximating skin edges for an aesthetically pleasing and functional result, and minimizing the risks of bleeding and infection.
Proper suturing technique is needed to ensure good results in dermatologic surgery. The postoperative appearance of a beautifully designed closure or flap can be compromised if an incorrect suture technique is chosen or if the execution is poor. Conversely, meticulous suturing technique cannot fully compensate for improper surgical technique. Poor incision placement with respect to relaxed skin tension lines, excessive removal of tissue, or inadequate undermining may limit the surgeon's options in wound closure and suture placement. Gentle handling of the tissue is also important to optimize wound healing.
The choice of suture technique depends on the type and anatomic location of the wound, the thickness of the skin, the degree of tension, and the desired cosmetic result. The proper placement of sutures enhances the precise approximation of the wound edges, which helps minimize and redistribute skin tension. Wound eversion is essential to maximize the likelihood of good epidermal approximation. Eversion is desirable to minimize the risk of scar depression secondary to tissue contraction during healing. Usually, inversion is not desirable, and it probably does not decrease the risk of hypertrophic scarring in an individual with a propensity for hypertrophic scars. The elimination of dead space, the restoration of natural anatomic contours, and the minimization of suture marks are also important to optimize the cosmetic and functional results.
In this article, the suture techniques used in cutaneous surgery are reviewed. The techniques of suture placement for each type of stitch are described, the rationale for choosing one suture technique over another are reviewed, and the advantages and disadvantages of each suture technique are discussed. Frequently, more than one suture technique is needed for optimal closure of a wound. After reading this article, the reader should have an understanding of how and why particular sutures are chosen and an appreciation of the basic methods of placing each type of suture.