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Sutures versus staples for wound closure in orthopaedic surgery: a pilot randomized controlled trial

Jesse A Slade Shantz13*, James Vernon2, Saam Morshed1, Jeff Leiter23 and Gregory Stranges23

Author Affiliations

1 Orthopedic Trauma Institute, University of California, 2550 23rd Street, Building 9, 2nd Floor, 94110, San Francisco, CA, USA

2 Section of Orthopedics, University of Manitoba, AD-401, 820 Sherbrook St., R3A 1R9, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

3 Pan Am Clinic, 75 Poseidon Bay, R3M 3E4, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Patient Safety in Surgery 2013, 7:6  doi:10.1186/1754-9493-7-6

Published: 9 February 2013



In the spectrum of surgical decision-making, wound closure material is often an afterthought. However, the findings of a recent meta-analysis suggest that the rate of surgical site infections (SSIs) is increased by using staples to close surgical wounds. Less clear is the effect of closure material on the incidence of non-infectious wound complications.

The aim of this study was to compare sutures and staples in terms of: incidence of wound complications to determine the sample size for a definitive trial comparing wound closure methods.


Eligible adult orthopaedic patients were randomized to have wounds closed with sutures or staples. Time for skin closure was recorded. Wounds were assessed for complications for six weeks. The incidence of complications was compared using Fisher’s exact test. Time to close and pain with removal of closure material were compared using a Student’s t-test.


The total number of patients reporting a wound complication was 59 of 148 patients completing six-week followup (41%), with no differennce between sutures and staples (RR = 0.77, CI = 0.52–1.14). The time to close wounds was shorter in the staple group (mean=4.8 min, CI = 2.6–7.1) than the suture group (mean=12 min, CI = 7.9–16). Patients in the staple group (mean=3.7, CI =2.8–4.6) reported more pain with removal than suture group (mean=2.5, CI =1.6–3.4).


This study suggests that 42% of patients report a wound complication with no difference between sutures and staples. It was demonstrated that suturing skin requires more time and staples are more painful to remove.

Trial registration identifier NCT01146236 (registered June 14, 2010)

Sutures; Staples; Wound closure; Wound complication; Time of closure; Pain with removal