What are Sutures?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Mar 21, 2013

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What are Sutures

Sutures, most commonly called stiches, are sterile surgical threads that are used to close deep or surface wounds.


There are two types of sutures, namely:

Non-absorbable Sutures

Non-absorbable sutures are used to close skin wounds because they make the wound less noticeable and therefore, cosmetically more appealing. When the sutures are used in skin wounds, they are removed soon after the wound has healed. If non-absorbable stitches are left in the skin for longer than what is needed, they tend to leave a permanent scar. Once the non-absorbable sutures are removed, the wound heals by itself. A non-absorbable suture may be used to:

  • Heal interrupted skin suturing when the sutures are removed later
  • Securing drains to skin
  • Repairing the stitches for blood vessels
  • Repairing Achilles tendon
  • Repairing bowel stitch


Absorbable Sutures

Layers that heal easily can be repaired with absorbable sutures. Absorbable sutures are made from materials that can easily dissolve with time inside the body. These may be fibers that line animal intestines. Absorbable sutures are very strong in the first few days or healing as they are made with several fibers, making them less likely to run the risk of breakage. These fibers, however, lose a lot of their strength by the end of the first two weeks of healing. These fibers are best for repairing muscles because muscles need strong sutures when they are to heal the most i.e. in the first few days. The body usually absorbs the stitches within 60 days. Some examples of absorbable sutures include Vicryl, Monocryl, PDS and Chromic. The amount of time that a suture takes to break down in the body are dependent on certain factors such as the type of suture, its size and place where it is placed.

Below is the complete breakdown of strength time of different types of Ethicon sutures:

  • Undyed Monocryl: takes 3 weeks to break down
  • Vicryl Rapide: takes 2 weeks to break down
  • Dyed Monocryl: takes 4 weeks to break down
  • Coated vicryl: takes 4.5 weeks to break down
  • PDS: takes 9 weeks to break down
  • Panacryl: takes 70 weeks to break down.

Sutures that are placed internally require re-opening when it is time for them to be removed. Sutures that are on the exterior of the body can be easily removed and without the need to reopen the wound. Therefore, absorbable sutures are used internally and non-absorbable ones used externally.

Sutures that have to be placed in sensitive areas like the heart or bladder may require stronger or specialised materials to keep the wound intact and heal it faster. These sutures are either specially treated or made with the help of special materials and are non-absorbable.



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