Dermatology • May 18, 2010

Skin glue or stitches?

You know that feeling—when you least expect it your child manages to get a deep cut—and you know you’re headed for a long night in the ER.  The good news is that the field of pediatrics has new and better ways to minimize pain and improve cosmetic outcome of skin wound treatments.

Skin glue is often an alternative to stitches.  The main advantage of skin glue is that it is quick and virtually painless to use.   Your child doesn’t need any injections of pain mediation and there are no needles involved.  Skin glue can be a great option for a young child who would have to be sedated or restrained for a repair with stitches.  Sometimes the cosmetic outcome may not be as good as a sewn repair, especially if the wound is in a high tension area.  There are times when skin glue may not be possible, or may not be the best choice.  Wounds that usually are not closed with skin glue include:

1)      Wounds in areas of high skin tension such as the arm, leg or forehead.

2)      Wounds in areas that stretch, move, or change such as over joints.

3)      Wounds within a hairline such as scalp or through an eyebrow.

4)      Wounds that have a high risk of infection such as animal bites.

5)      Wounds that are particularly deep or large or involve damage to underlying muscle or tendons.

6)      Wounds to mucus membranes, lips, and genitalia.

Skin numbing cream is also available and, for smaller wounds, can be the only medication needed to numb the area before stitches.  This eliminates the need for injectable numbing medicines.  The down-side to skin numbing creams is that they have to sit for at least 20-30 minutes before they are fully effective.  But for small wounds that are not a candidate for skin glue, numbing cream and a few dissolving stitches means a nice cosmetic outcome with little or no trauma.  Some doctors will also give a small, weight-adjusted dose of a narcotic and/or anxiety medicine to help make the process easier.

For larger wounds that need a lot stitches, some pediatric emergency rooms offer sedation.  Your child can be put to sleep with IV medicine during the repair.  If you think this might be necessary, call your ER first as not all facilities offer this service.

Some, but not all, ERs have a plastic surgeon on call.  Other ERs have a list of plastic surgeons that they can call but do not guarantee that a plastic surgeon will be available.  If you think you child may need a plastic surgeon, consider calling your ER first to see what their policy is.

No matter how your child’s wound is repaired, it will scar.  If you are displeased with the scar, you can always have it revised by a plastic surgeon.  And remember, the summer sun is the worst things for scars and prevents fading.  Once your child’s wound is well healed, be sure to use liberal sun-screen every day.


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  • Dawn

    My son had his eyebrow glued over six weeks ago and the glue is still stuck to the eye brow. Is there a safe way to release it from the eye brow without pulling off all the hair.

  • Jackie Ferman

    The best approach to this problem is to put petroleum jelly or antibiotic appointment on the skin glue a few times each day and rub it vigorously. The should get the glue off. If this doesn’t work, you should bring your child to his pediatrician. You should also see the pediatrician if there are any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus from the wound. I hope your son’s eyebrow looks better!

  • Tina

    My daughter had the area right above her eyebrow glued this past Friday night. The glue hasn’t come off yet, but our pediatrician said that it should peel off naturally.
    Dawn, is all of the glue still on your son’s eyebrow after 6 weeks? How does the wound look? What is your aftercare plan?

  • Lulu

    My daughters forehead was glued about a week ago, the glue was still on her skin and she fell again hiting the same area, immideately there was swelling, the glue did not come off but the wound opened just a little bit. I applied neosporin around the glue area, so she does not get infection. Will her skin continue to stay together, or does the glue have to be taken off and the whole thing to be repeated again?

  • Dear Lulu,

    How frustrating! I’m so sorry your daughter fell twice! You should bring your daughter back to medical care as soon as possible. The wound may well need to be re-glued. I hope she feels better!

  • Angie

    My son had is eyebrow clued yesterday and the doctor messed up and put to much and it ran down into his eye and glued it completely shut and got in his eye…the doctor had to pull the eye led completely apart and my son was screaming in pain that his eye was burning and stuff was in it…we spent 3.5 hrs in OP trying to get the glue out he still has tons of glue in his eye lashes I’m taking him today to the eye doctor to make sure his eye is OK…I have no idea how I’m suppose to get the glue out. He is only 4 years old

  • Ann

    Where can I buy skin glue?

  • Katie

    My 4 year old daughter got a cut above her forehead, in her hair line.
    The doctor put the glue in there and said it’d come off on it’s own in a week or so.
    Today I was very sad to see that the glue has now peeled away from her skin (I assume with the hair’s growth) and that 1/2 of the hair connected to the glue has been COMPLETELY RIPPED OUT! She has a little bald spot, and I am so scared the other 1/2 will rip off too!
    This is horrible. My poor girl has less hair than your average 4 year old, so I have been so grateful for her finally getting her hair in a bit thicker… and now, a month before Christmas, she has a bald spot on her head!
    How on Earth can I safely remove this?
    I will happily PAY to have the ER use some type of solvent to remove it… but will they have that there??

  • Ursula Soltys

    My earlobe wripped completely down from an earing and it has healed already. I need something to close and seal that earlobe so I can wear earings again. What do you suggest?

  • fantastic publish, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do
    not notice this. You must proceed your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  • momoffive

    my son,who is 23 mo.,split open just under his chin. I opted for the glue.On day three glue was gone and every once in a while would bleed. Feeling upset,should I have gotten stitches instead and what to do now? Do i have an option to help with scaring?

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  • Joanna Milich

    My son had 5 stitches in his eyebrow last night. I was given a few samples of bacitracin to put on it daily. They told my husband (he took son to the doc) that neosporin is OK but without the numbing agent. Anyone know why? My husband said there was a reason but he can’t remember. I just want to know!

  • Roy Guillen

    So I i got an inch long and some what deep cut (starting within my eyebrows and going an inch up) and need stitches or medical glue. I choose medical glue, well he really didn’t put the glue that well within the cut of my eyebrow and now its bleeding. The opening keeps getting bigger and bigger and the bleeding won’t stop. It’s not bleeding a lot but its dry blood and when the dry blood falls off or something happens to it, I start bleeding again. I’m not sure what to do, should I let it just be or should I just go back and tell them. It costed about $326 and its been 4 days since I had it. I need a quick response, please help. (There is no redness or fever, its just a bit swollen and bleeds just a bit.)

  • Tom

    I once cracked my skull open when I was younger (roughly 10 years old!), this was when I was running around the popular play area: Rascals! I didn’t realise I had done myself any hrm util later that evening.
    The doctor used glue on my head instead of stitches

  • I wanted to know where I can purchase this medical glue? I’m in Ottawa, ON Canada

  • cari

    My son got a cut starting from the middle of his eyebrow going up yesterday, the doctored glued it together but there’s a part that’s not covered and it looks open and white in the middle it is swollen but I think because it was just yesterday that it happen, should I take him back? I really don’t know what to do.

  • GiadaPratali

    My seven-year-old daughter had 9 stitches above her eye. We apply dermalmd scar serum every night and I swear it looks better every morning. I am so impressed with how well dermalmd works. I am forever grateful to dermalmd for reducing the scar on my daughter’s face.

  • Mar

    This may be a long shot, but.. what was the outcome of this?