Steri-Strips: How to Remove Them Safely After Surgery

Don't rip off these butterfly stitches too soon or too aggressively

Healing hip replacement wound with steri-strips
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After certain surgeries that require incisions, like hysterectomies, doctors will sometimes apply bandages called Steri-Strips (which are also known as butterfly closures or butterfly stitches). They are applied to help an incision heal.

If you've recently undergone surgery, you may be wondering: When can I take them off? Or will they fall off naturally? And what happens if my doctor tells me to take them off after a certain amount of time, but I can't?

You don't, of course, want your ​incision to get infected or break open, so you might be worried about ripping them off too soon or taking them off incorrectly. Here's what you need to know about safe Steri-Strip removal.

The Pros and Cons of Steri-Strips

From a medical standpoint, Steri-Strips are great. They can hold together small, contoured areas of the body that required an incision until the site heals. The bad thing is that they can be stubborn when you try to remove them. They tend to stay put and resist removal.

Tips on How to Safely Remove Steri-Strips

Keep this advice in mind before you try to take off the butterfly stitches. 

1. Don't remove them too soon. Always follow your doctor's orders—even if the Steri-Strips are itchy or irritating. Removing them too soon could cause your incision site to reopen. Plus, you may introduce harmful bacteria, which can cause an infection. If your doctor didn't advise you to take them off after a certain amount of time, call the office and ask if and when you should.


2. Do not aggressively rip off the strip. The same logic that forces people to rip off BAND-AIDS in a super speedy, yanking motion does not apply to Steri-Strips. Why? Steri-Strips are much more adhesive than standard BAND-AIDS, and you'll probably do more harm than good if you tug on them very forcefully.

So if you're going to take them off, be extremely gentle in your approach and peel each strip off slowly, one tiny bit at a time.

3. Remember that you can almost always wait. Know that you can almost always wait until the strips fall off on their own. In fact, many surgeons recommend it. Showering and the natural oils of the skin will allow the strips to peel on their own in time—usually in about ten days. Some surgeons, however, will tell you that you can remove them after a certain number of days post-op. Please note that this is a guideline. For instance, if you were told that you could remove the strips on Day 7 and yet you can't, it won't hurt to keep them on for a few more days. As the days after surgery pass, Steri-Strips do lose their adhesiveness and begin to curl. Simply trim the curled edges, and within a few days, the whole strips will fall off. Finally, If you find that you just can't remove them yourself and they don't fall off on their own, your doctor can always take them off at your next appointment.

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