How do I apply butterfly stitches?

Butterfly stitches, called Steristrips, are narrow adhesive strips that help to close the edges of a small wound and encourage the skin to heal.

They can be applied to 'v'-flap cuts on thin skin on the legs in the elderly, and to some cuts in children. They should not be used in areas where the skin moves a lot (for example, joints) or on oily, moist, or hairy areas.

If the wound is shallow, clean and uninfected, and you are sure that there is nothing embedded in it, butterfly strips can be used. Make sure the skin around the wound is also clean and dry. It's not always necessary to use the full length of the strips, and you can cut them to a more appropriate length. Leave about 3mm between each strip.

  • Carefully line up the edges of the wound.
  • Push them together, and, starting at the middle of the wound, apply the strips to keep the edges closed.
  • Place half of the strip on one side of the wound, bring the edges together by gently bringing the other side towards it, and then pass the strip over.
  • Place strips alternately above and below the first strip – this helps to match up the edges and keeps the skin tension equal.
  • To anchor the rows of strips in place, put two strips across the rows (one on each side of the wound).

A protective dressing is not usually necessary, but the wound must be kept dry until the strips are removed (around 5-7 days, or 10-14 days for cuts to the shinbone area). If the strips are difficult to remove, it may help to moisten them with warm water for around 10 minutes.

If the wound does not stop bleeding once the strips have been applied, this is a sign that butterfly stitches are not suitable. You should seek medical advice, as another method of treating the wound may be required.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 22/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015