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How To Repair a Laceration With Horizontal Mattress Sutures


Matthew J. Streitz

, MD, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2023
Topic Resources

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 without constricting the wound edge.

The mattress sutures (both vertical How To Repair a Laceration With Vertical Mattress Sutures 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... read more and horizontal) are commonly used to close wounds under tension. Because the suture is looped through the skin lateral to the wound (rather than over the wound), tension is transferred away from the wound edges to the looped lateral skin. Additionally, by having the sutures cross under (rather than over) the laceration, eversion of the edges occurs when the suture is tightened.

The horizontal mattress suture is useful in areas where there is little subcutaneous dermal tissue, making wound edge eversion difficult. Approximation is achieved without causing constriction or tension (and subsequent ischemia, necrosis, or tearing) of the wound edges. Because the second bite is parallel to the first, about half as many sutures are needed to close a wound.

Indications for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

  • Lacerations of volar surfaces of hand and fingers, where simple interrupted sutures may cut through the skin

  • Some wounds under tension, instead of a layered closure, if skin tension is not marked

  • Parallel lacerations

  • Scalp lacerations or lacerations with edges that are macerated, irregular, or have thick or thin edges

Contraindications for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

Absolute contraindications

  • None

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 Horizontal Mattress Sutures

  • Infection

  • Cutting or scarring due to pressure on the skin from the sutures

  • Dermal ischemia and necrosis, which occur more often than with simple or continuous sutures

Equipment for Horizontal 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

Additional Considerations for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

  • The half-buried horizontal mattress suture, a variation of the horizontal mattress suture, can be used to close flap lacerations.

Positioning for Horizontal 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 Horizontal 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.

Horizontal mattress suture

Horizontal Mattress Suture

The needle and suture follow a path from point 1 to point 4, as described in the Step-by-Step Description of Procedure.

Horizontal Mattress Suture

Half-buried horizontal mattress suture

Also referred to as a tip suture or corner suture, the half-buried horizontal tip suture can be used to approximate the tip of flap laceration into the corner of a V- or Y-shaped laceration if the edges cannot be satisfactorily aligned even with undermining. The suture loop in the flap tip remains entirely intradermal (ie, buried). Because there is no external skin loop, epidermal tension on the flap tip is minimized.

  • Align the flap with the sides of the wound.

  • Place the first bite by inserting the needle into the skin about 0.5 to 1 cm below and lateral to the apex of the V-shaped wound and advance it intradermally until it emerges from the dermal layer into the wound.

  • Keeping the needle on a parallel intradermal path, insert it through the tip of the flap.

  • Insert the needle through the opposite side of the wound and at the same distance and depth as the first bite.

  • Pull gently on the suture ends to draw the flap tip into the V apex, approximating and everting the wound edges.

  • Tie the suture.

  • If excessive tension prevents apposition of the flap to the apex of the laceration, the wound will now appear as a Y (with the half-buried mattress suture at its center). The rest of the laceration (including the shaft of the Y, if present) can be closed as any other laceration.

Aftercare for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

Flap Laceration Repair

A half-buried horizontal mattress suture (described in text) can be used to close flap lacerations. The dotted lines indicate intradermal placement.

Flap Laceration Repair

Aftercare for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

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

Tips and Tricks for Horizontal Mattress Sutures

  • For the half-buried horizontal mattress suture, carefully align the tip of the flap with the notch from which it came.

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
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