Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

honeypot link

How To Repair a Laceration With Vertical Mattress Sutures


Matthew J. Streitz

, MD, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2023
Topic Resources

The vertical mattress suture accomplishes, in a single suture, both dermal and subdermal approximation using a wide-deep (“far-far”) loop, followed by epidermal approximation and eversion using a narrow-shallow (“near-near”) loop. The major advantage of this suture is its capacity for alignment and eversion of wound edges.

The mattress sutures (both vertical and horizontal How To Repair a Laceration With Horizontal Mattress Sutures The horizontal mattress suture uses a simple suture bite followed by a reverse bite adjacent to the first to create a single broad suture that achieves wound approximation and epidermal eversion... read more ) are commonly used to close wounds under tension. Suture loops placed through the skin lateral to the wound (rather than over the wound) transfer tension away from the wound edges to the looped lateral skin. Additionally, having the sutures cross under (rather than over) the laceration, can help achieve eversion of the edges when the suture is tightened.

Indications for Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • Wounds with edges that are difficult to align or evert. These can include wounds that tend to invert, such as those of concave skin of the groin or posterior neck or loose skin over the dorsum of the elbow or hand.

  • Wounds under moderate (but not marked) tension (instead of a layered closure)

Contraindications for Vertical Mattress Sutures

Absolute contraindications

  • Laceration of the face, palm, or sole, where a blind deep suture is contraindicated

Relative contraindications

  • Wounds under marked tension

  • Wounds that may be contaminated or relatively old and would be at higher risk of infection if closed by sutures, such as small bites to hands or feet, puncture wounds, or high-velocity missile wounds.

Wounds involving deep structures (eg, nerves, blood vessels, ducts, joints, tendons, bones) may require specialized techniques or referral to a surgical specialist, as should those covering large areas or involving the face or hands.

Complications of Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • Infection

  • Scarring, due to unrelieved tension on the laceration

  • Cross-hatching (train tracks) due to pressure on the skin surface caused by the wide-deep loop

  • Cutting of skin by sutures, particularly by the narrow-shallow loop, particularly if this loop is placed prior to the wide-deep loop

  • Ischemia and necrosis, which occur more often than with simple interrupted or continuous sutures

Equipment for Vertical Mattress Sutures

Wound hygiene and closure techniques need not be sterile procedures. Although instruments that touch the wound (eg, forceps, needles, suture) must be sterile, clean nonsterile gloves as well as clean but not sterile water may be used in immunocompetent patients. Some operators prefer the better fit and better barrier protection of sterile gloves.

Clean procedure, barrier protection

Positioning for Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • Position the patient comfortably reclined or supine.

  • Adjust the stretcher height so that you will be comfortable either sitting or standing at the bedside.

  • In general, position yourself so that the laceration is roughly parallel to the front of your body.

  • The laceration should be well lit, preferably with an overhead procedure light.

Step-by-Step Description of Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • Cleanse, anesthetize, irrigate, and debride the wound as necessary.

  • Place a sterile fenestrated drape over the wound. Place additional drapes nearby as needed to provide a large-enough sterile work area.

  • In general, place the first suture in the middle of the wound. Place all subsequent sutures in the middle of each open section, until there are no gaps.

Vertical mattress suture

Vertical Mattress Suture

The first pass of the needle is the same as a large simple suture, but instead of tying off, another smaller bite is taken back across the wound to end on the starting side. Both ends are pulled up to closely align (approximate) the wound edges. Points A and B must be at the same depth, as must points C and D; this placement results in correct vertical alignment.

Vertical Mattress Suture

Aftercare for Vertical Mattress Sutures

Warnings and Common Errors for Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • During pre-procedure preparation of the wound, diligently inspect the wound to avoid the frequent error of failing to note associated injuries of nearby tissues, foreign bodies, or body cavity penetrations

  • Avoid overly tight sutures and use cautery sparingly because both can cause tissue ischemia.

Tips and Tricks for Vertical Mattress Sutures

  • Some operators prefer to make the narrow-shallow loop first, which saves time by facilitating placement of the wide-deep loop. However, traditional placement of the wide-deep loop first facilitates a more precise placement of the narrow-shallow loop (achieving more even edge alignment) and also prevents tearing of the skin that may occur when pulling up on the narrow loop to start the wide bite.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Betasept, Chlorostat, Hibiclens, Oro Clense , Peridex, Periogard, PerioRx , Perisol
Betadine, Betadine Prep, First Aid, GRx Dyne, GRx Dyne Scrub, Povidex , Povidex Peri
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!