For the past 40 years Akron Children’s has been the leader in specialized wound repair for pediatric patients in northeast Ohio – treating 8,000 kids annually.
“We are among the oldest programs in the country and one of only a handful in the nation,” said Eric Lloyd, BSN, RN, suture program coordinator.
The suture program began in 1974 under the direction of the hospital’s emergency medicine physicians, who wanted to find a place for military corpsman and surgical technicians returning from Vietnam. Battle trained in wound repair, the vets’ specialized training and skill set produced a high level of patient satisfaction and superior wound care.
Today’s 30-member team, under the guidance of medical director Dr. Emily Scott, is made up of 18 paramedics and 12 registered nurses who undergo extensive training and use techniques from plastic surgeons and other experts in the field of acute wound repair.
“The average employee on our team has between 7 to 8 years of on-the-job experience and we have one person who’s been doing this for 36 years,” said Lloyd.
Akron Children’s ERs in Akron, Mahoning Valley, Hudson and Montrose are all staffed with at least 1 team member and the Akron campus is staffed 20 hours a day. That number jumps to 2 or 3 suture specialists during high volume times of year.
“We see an increase in acute wounds during the summer months when kids are more active outside,” said Lloyd.
While the program has evolved over the years, so have the materials used to close wounds. String stitches come in various sizes and strengths and some are made to dissolve on their own. Skin adhesives are also available to use on patients who have a hard time sitting still.
“We can bury stitches inside wounds to keep them from sinking and support the interior of the wound, which allows for better results,” Lloyd said.
When cuts need stitches
Ever wonder when it’s OK to treat a wound at home versus bringing your child to the ER?
Lloyd advises that any wound that gapes over ½ centimeter should be closed.
“Wounds to the face and head should be closed within a 12-hour period and wounds to other parts of the body within 8 hours,” he said. “Closing a wound allows us to thoroughly clean it, which reduces infection, healing time and often improves the cosmetic outcome.”
The team’s family-centered approach to care focuses on addressing the questions and concerns of the parents while easing the pain and anxiety for the child.
When a repair is beyond the scope of a team member’s capabilities, specialists from orthopedics, plastic surgery, dentistry, ophthalmology and surgery can perform procedures right in the ER to ensure the most successful outcome for the patient.
“Collaboration is another advantage of having our program housed in the emergency department,” said Lloyd.