Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to use Steri Strips

   In a remote setting minor cuts and lacerations can be a huge nuisance or worse transform into a major illness. Having the skills and toys available to clean and close minor cuts can be a benefit for expedition medics.
   Steri Strips, Benzoin Tincture and a Tegaderm dressing can be your best friend.

   This blog is not a substitute for treatment from a doctor. If you have a cut DO NOT try this unless you are trained to at least the Wilderness Emergency First Responder level AND unless you are in a Remote & Austere environment!

   Let me introduce you to the Wound Pack.

   In the Wound Pack is a tube of Benzoin Tincture (known as Friar's Balsam), a  transparent dressing (Tegaderm or Opsite), and a packet of Steri Strips (known as paper stitches).

   These three items can be used for a number of different wilderness injuries but today we are going to be dealing with a laceration of the knee.

   This wound was created using a camp saw while cutting willow branches. It is a common injury for the Bushcraft and survival types. The wound has been pressure irrigated with at least three liters of drinkable water.

   First, the wound must be inspected for any debris or small stones, dirt or any foreign matter.

   A good set of tweezers with a magnifying lens is ideal for dealing with wound debridement as well as your common splinters or stingers that seem to collect on the skin.

   Second, the wound must be picked clean of any foreign material.

   Third, you must use Benzoin Tincture (or Friar's Balsam) as a glue to help the paper sutures and clear dressing to stick.
The tube of Benzoin is squeezed to crack the glass vial and to release the glue.
Make sure that you do not get any glue into the wound.

   Fourth, the cleaned wound can be closed using Steri Strips, Superglue (preferably Dermabond) or sutures. The Steri Strips are applied one at a time while gently pulling the wound closed. 

Start with the middle Steri Strip.
You want to close the largest gap first.

Then add more to close the next largest gap and so on.

We will stop at three for this wound.

   The fifth and final step is to apply the protective dressing over the wound. Tegaderm or Opsite are two brand names that I have used successfully. This clear borderless and breathable membrane will keep the bugs, wee beasties and dirt out of the wound while allowing it to breath and heal. 

First, open the package and remove the backing.

Next, place over the wound making sure to cover all of the cut.

Finally, remove the paper border.

Job Done.

   This technique will help your healing process. The dressing should stay on for up to a week or ten days. It will generally come off by itself. 
   Continue to monitor the wound for signs of infection. If you feel pain, excess heat, redness or especially red streaks going towards the heart then the wound is infected and additional medical treatment is necessary....Immediately!

   I have used this technique for a multitude of injuries with complete success. 

   Again....please seek professional medical advice for any injury sustained in any environment. This technique is not a substitute for a good doctor's treatment. 

Additional information can be found at RemoteMedicine.ie


  1. Where can you buy the above? I've had a lot of trouble trying to find them.

  2. Paper staples can be found here in the EU in chemists shops. Ebay is another option.

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