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How to Set up a Suture Tray

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This article relates to the steps needed to set up a suture tray in the emergency room for the doctor. Usually a nurse or an EMT sets up the suture trays so the doctor can concentrate on suturing lacerations and not have to bother setting up the supplies and equipment.

Collect all supplies needed, including sterile gloves that will fit the doctor. Grab several pairs as some may become accidentally contaminated or dropped. This will save you a step or two. Ask the doctor what type of suture he wants to use and what type of numbing medicine he will be using. Gather various syringes and needles as well as some alcohol wipes. Don't forget to get the correct sterilized suture pack. For example, some suture trays have fine instruments for the delicate repairs needed on the face, while others are for wounds of the arms or legs.

Place all the supplies within easy reach of the doctor near the patient. Usually the suture tray is set up on a clean mayo-stand. Supplies that the doctor may need handy include extra syringes, needles and gloves.

Open the suture tray only when the doctor is ready to begin. Usually this is done by unrolling the towel or drape while maintaining sterility. Nothing touches the tray or instruments except someone donning sterile gloves. The doctor will set up the equipment on the tray after she dons the gloves you have brought her. She will ask for saline, betadine or hibiclens to be poured into the receptacle provided in the tray. Pour these from a short distance away from the tray and without touching any surface within it.

Remove the cap of the numbing medicine when the doctor asks for it, and wipe the top with an alcohol pad. Hold the label up so the doctor can see what type it is and then invert it so the doctor can insert a needle-tipped syringe into the bottle to withdraw the medicine. Sometimes this is left to the doctor so no one is accidentally injured in this step. Next the doctor will inform you of the type and size of suture he will need. Open the package and peel the ends away while at the same time gently dropping the sterile sutures onto the sterile tray.

Sometimes the doctor will ask for an instrument that is not on the suture tray such as larger scissors or different pick-ups. In this case, make sure everything you offer the doctor is in a sterile package and you open the package in the same manner you opened the suture material. These instruments are usually handed to the doctor instead of dropped on the tray.


Make sure the suture tray has been sterilized and is sealed correctly.


Non-sterile supplies or instruments can cause grievous infections.

About the Author

George Chavez is a writer with expertise in emergency room care and general health issues. Chavez has written for Rateitall.com and various other websites. He attended the University of New Mexico where he majored in journalism and the University of Albuquerque where he majored in radiologic technology.