Progressive tightening of pulley sutures for primary repair of large scalp wounds

C. Helen Malone, Jillian M. McLaughlin, Lindy S. Ross, Linda G. Phillips, Richard F. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Scalp defects greater than 2 cm in diameter are not usually amenable to primary closure and require local tissue rearrangement, grafting, tissue expansion, or prolonged second intention healing. Scalp flap reconstruction is a significant undertaking that requires elevation of a total flap surface area that is 3-6 times the size of the defect, often involves profuse bleeding, and can be challenging to perform without conscious sedation or general anesthesia. Anticoagulated and medically complex patients pose additional challenges and limit options for treatment. The pulley suture uses the mechanical advantage of the pulley to distribute tension across a wound and is useful in areas of high tension such as scalp wounds. For scalp wounds greater than 2 cm, pulley sutures are placed along the length of the wound. An assistant exerts equal tension on the pulley sutures, and the surgeon sequentially ties the sutures. The sutures are tightened and retied weekly until complete scalp closure is achieved. The pulley sutures can be used for rapid primary closure of scalp wounds up to 2.5-3.0 cm in diameter under local anesthesia. For scalp wounds larger than 3 cm, we have also found that pulley sutures can be progressively tightened yielding additional tissue expansion every week. Scalp wounds greater than 3.0 cm can be easily closed via primary repair and weekly tightening of pulley sutures without the need for flap reconstruction, traditional tissue expander placement, or second intention healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1592
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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