Over a 6-month period, patients attending the Accident and Emergency Department of the Mater Infirmorum Hospital with scalp wounds were randomly allocated to one of two groups for closure of their wounds with either nylon sutures or metal staples. Each group contained 100 patients. Patients were reviewed at 5 days (95 per cent) after the removal of sutures or staples and again at 3 weeks (61 per cent). The two groups were similar for age, sex, aetiology and wound characteristics. There was no difference in morbidity or rate of wound infection but stapling was significantly faster and less painful. The use of staples carries no risk of accidental needle-stick injury and should therefore be safer than suturing for the user.