Practical Pearls

How to Optimize Wound Closure in Thin Skin

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Cutaneous surgery often is performed in areas of extremely thin skin. Traditionally, wound closure in thin skin is complicated because the skin tears easily and wound breakdown can occur. Consequently, healing becomes a challenge. Our group of dermatologic surgeons has developed a novel effective technique that minimizes these problems, which we present step by step.



Practice Gap

Cutaneous surgery involves many areas where skin is quite thin and fragile, which often is encountered in elderly patients; the forearms and lower legs are the most frequent locations for thin skin.1 Dermatologic surgeons frequently encounter these situations, making this a highly practical arena for technical improvements.

For many of these patients, there is little meaningful dermis for placement of subcutaneous sutures. Therefore, a common approach following surgery, particularly following Mohs micrographic surgery in which tumors and defects typically are larger, is healing by secondary intention.2 Although healing by secondary intention often is a reasonable option, we have found that maximizing the use of epidermal skin for primary closure can be an effective means of closing many such defects. Antimicrobial reinforced skin closure strips have been incorporated in wound closure for thin skin. However, earlier efforts involving reinforcement perpendicular to the wound lacked critical details or used a different technique.3

The Technique

We developed a novel effective closure technique that minimizes these problems. Our technique has been used on the wounds of hundreds of patients with satisfying results. Early on, we used multiple variations to optimize outcomes, including different sizes of sutures and reinforced skin closure strips, application of medical liquid adhesive, liquid adhesive, and varying postoperative dressings. For 3 years, we tracked outcomes in-house and gradually narrowed down our successes into a single, user-friendly paradigm.

Supplies—To perform this technique, required supplies include:

• 2-0 Polypropylene suture with a PS-2 needle, or the equivalent. Polyglactin or silk suture can be utilized if a less-rigid suture is desired; however, we primarily have used polypropylene for repairs with good results. Each repair requires at least 2 sutures.

• Reinforced skin closure strips (1×5 inches). This width affords increased strength.

• Conforming stretch bandage and elastic self-adherent wrap.

• Polysporin (bacitracin zinc, polymyxin B sulfate, and petrolatum)(Johnson & Johnson).

• All usual surgical instruments and supplies, including paper tape and nonadherent gauze (surgeon dependent).


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