How Are Surgical Staples Removed?

by Ken Chisholm ; Updated August 14, 2017

Proper Equipment

Because the skin is by far the most frequent site for surgical staple usage, having the proper staple remover is critical to easy and comfortable removal. Different styles of removers are available, so the doctor, nurse or other qualified health care practitioner should pick the one that maximizes ease of use and optimal patient comfort during removal. Some styles are single-use disposable removers.

Site Preparation

The incision site should be cleansed with an antiseptic solution or surgical skin prep solution before considering staple removal. Dried blood and scabs can harbor bacteria. Many different solutions are available, ranging from betadine/iodine solutions, to 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. The staples should be cleaned as well as the skin.


Disposable examination gloves are acceptable for this procedure, because it is not classified as sterile. The gloves are for the remover's protection as much as for patient safety against cross-contamination.

Even though the process is not considered sterile, the staple remover, in all likelihood, will be.

Alignment of the Remover

The practitioner will insert the lower jaw of the staple remover under the staple, preferably in the center. The remover should be parallel with the incision. The upper jaw of the remover should lie just over the mid-portion of the staple.

Staple Engagement

The practitioner will then squeeze the two parts of the handle together gently but with consistent force. As the jaws of the remover engage the staple, they will create a downward bend in the staple. This, in turn, causes the tines (legs) of the staple to spring open, disengaging the skin, allowing the staple to be removed. The staple will then be lifted vertically to remove it from the incision site.


Occasionally, a staple may require the remover to be "fired" a second time to complete the separation process from the skin.

Skin Cleansing

After all staples are removed, the doctor or nurse should clean any droplets of blood present in the marks on the skin and clean the incision again with the proper solution. External dressings and/or bandages may be needed to absorb any minimal drainage from the small puncture sites left by the staples.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Ken Chisholm is a freelance writer who began writing in 2007 for LIVESTRONG.COM. He has experience in health care, surgery, nursing and orthopedics as an orthopedic physician assistant and a registered nurse. He holds a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Findlay, Ohio.