The Procedural Pause

Renowned emergency physician James R. Roberts, MD, and his daughter, Martha Roberts, ACNP, CEN, are teaming up to create a new EMN blog, The Procedural Pause.

The blog will focus on procedures that emergency medicine residents and midlevel providers are often called on to perform in the ED. Each case will cover the basics, the best approach for treatment, and pearls and pitfalls.

The Procedural Pause publishes anonymous case studies that required an ED procedure. The site welcomes all providers to share their ideas about emergency medicine, procedures, and experience with similar cases. Application of the information in this blog remains the professional responsibility of the practitioner.

Like all texts, manuals, support guides, and blogs, this site conveys personal opinions and experiences. Providers may approach a patient or procedure in many ways, and this blog is not a dictum nor is it meant to dictate standard of care. It is a clinical guide, not a legal document; do not reference this site in court or as a defense. It is your responsibility to follow your hospital’s procedures and protocol and to practice under the guidelines of your professional license.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Solutions for Difficult Problems: Part 4: Pediatric Nail Bed Laceration Basics

How do you go about choosing your suture thread? Absorbable sutures may include polyglycolic acid, chromic catgut, or glycerol-impregnated catgut. Non-absorbable sutures are typically made of silk, Prolene, or nylon. Suture materials may be synthetic or natural, and they can be mono- or multifilament. Sutures may also be braided, unbraided, or coated. Sizes of suture materials also vary greatly. A 3.0-sized thread is a lot bigger than a 6.0-sized thread, for example.

Keep these key principles in mind: The time it takes for the thread to be absorbed is dependent on the tissue type and thickness, the size and type of the thread, the condition of the patient, and the absorption half-life of the product. Many online guides can help you learn more. Some sutures will be absorbed in five to seven days; some may take more than 200 days to disappear completely.

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Vicryl Rapide vs. Vicryl

Vicryl Rapide and Vicryl are absorbable sutures and are potential choices for repairing nail bed lacerations. Vicryl Rapide is a new and improved form of Vicryl, and may be more commonly used. Vicryl Rapide absorbs more quickly than other absorbable sutures, including Vicryl. Vicryl Rapide typically is completely absorbed after 42 days.

The most important thing to know is that after five days, Vicryl Rapide becomes 50 percent weaker than it was when you first put it in. No traction is left at all by day 14. Take this into consideration when you are assessing the wound. This is enough time for a pediatric finger laceration to heal if it is appropriately splinted and followed up.​

Polyglycolic acid derivatives such as Vicryl Rapide and Vicryl are far superior to non-absorbable sutures for wound healing, but problems still occur with their use, often because they are placed inappropriately or in areas with high tension.


Sample of Ethicon's 5.0 Vicryl Rapide polyglactin 910 undyed, braided, synthetic absorbable suture material.

A randomized prospective study in the Journal of Hand Surgery investigated Vicryl and Vicryl Rapide in 60 pediatric hand surgery cases. Thirty of the patients received Vicryl and the other 30 received Vicryl Rapide. The results showed that five "problems" occurred in the Vicryl treatment group and none in the Vicryl Rapide group (P=0.03).

All of the problems were related to the delayed absorption of the Vicryl suture material. The author concluded that Vicryl Rapide sutures are "more suitable than Vicryl ones in pediatric hand surgery." (2005;30[1]:90). Vicryl Rapide also has an antibiotic coating called triclosan. Studies are limited, but the coating has shown lower the rates of infection.

The major difference between Vicryl and Vicryl Rapide is in the composition and handling. Typical Vicryl is made up of a polyglycolic acid called polyglactin 370. Providers reported this coating made tying their knots more difficult, but it did decrease tension through the tissue and did less damage to the wound. The advantage of Vicryl Rapide is that it is a type of polyglcolic acid called polyglactin 910, which is not only easy to use but also easier to tie and secure. Its tension is better, and the absorption rates are relatively the same.

We will discuss suture materials in depth in future blogs, and talk about the differences between nylon and Prolene and when to use deep sutures for various parts of the body. The pediatric population requires strict guidelines and tension relief because of the difference in their skin composition, healing times, and body mechanics.

Tetanus Status: Pay Attention to These Kids!

When does a child first receive a tetanus shot? The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) at ages 2, 4, and 6 months and again at 15 to 18 months. A DTaP booster is recommended for children ages 4 through 6 years old. Don't forget to administer appropriate boosters if your patient requires one. If parents are wary of receiving vaccines in the ED, they have 24 to 72 hours to discuss it with their pediatrician and have it still be effective.


Recommended guidelines from the CDC on Td vaccine.

Next month: Antibiotics for open finger fractures (such as tuft fractures), using Dermabond vs. suturing for nail bed lacerations, and referrals and additional treatments for hand injury patients.

Watch Ms. Roberts repair a nail bed laceration in this video.​