All about Dissolvable Sutures You should Know
We’ve come a long way since the very first stitches, which were essentially just sewing thread and a needle. Today, stitches, or sutures as they are also called, are more sophisticated than ever and in fact, they include dissolvable sutures that don’t even require a second trip back to the doctor’s office to be removed.
What Are They Made Out of?
Sutures that automatically dissolve instead of having to be removed by a doctor are convenient for many reasons, and the way they work is simple. Basically, these sutures are made out of special materials that dissolve and absorb into the skin, which is why they are also called absorbable stitches.
Conveniently, absorbable sutures can be used on both internal and external wounds, which means they are often used for surgical incisions as well as wounds that aren’t as deep.
Just what are they made out of? Dissolvable stitches are made out of both natural materials such as silk, hair, and collagen, which usually comes from animal intestines; as well as synthetic materials that break down in the body.
Occasionally, part of the suture will not dissolve, but more often than not, the entire stitch dissolves slowly over time and usually is finished by the time the wound is completely healed.
Main Features of Absorbable Sutures
Dissolvable stitches differ from standard stitches in a few ways, the main one being that they are naturally absorbed by the body. In normal situations, your body reacts to anything it considers a foreign substance by trying to destroy it. When you have dissolvable stitches, this “foreign” object creates an inflammatory reaction in the body that automatically and naturally begins to dissolve and absorb them.
Absorbable stitches are also temporary. When you receive regular stitches, they remain there until they are physically removed by a doctor or nurse.
Absorbable stitches only stay on the body for a certain length of time and then they’re gone. The amount of time the stitches take to dissolve varies depending on what they’re made of, their size, and the type of wound they’re covering, but all of them eventually will disappear after being absorbed into the body.
How Do Dissolvable Sutures Work?
Dissolvable sutures break down in the body beginning almost immediately because of the materials they are made of, which is often a type of polyglycolic acid (PGA) or polylactic acid (PLA), both of which usually come from a biomaterial such as starch. These materials do not do well in water and, therefore, they will break down and immediately start to dissolve and absorb into the body.
This usually works because the cells in the skin work to dissolve the stitches naturally as your body is healing. Most absorbable stitches are made to last anywhere from one week to several months, and your doctor will choose the one that best suits your needs.
When Are Dissolvable Stitches Used?
Dissolvable stitches are used on all types of wounds, both external and internal, and one of their biggest advantages is that they do not leave any scarring, which is important to most patients. Some of the types of procedures that can accommodate these absorbable stitches include:
- Caesarian deliveries, although there are pros and cons to this so not all doctors use it
- Oral surgery, especially for tooth extractions
- Orthopedic surgeries such as knee replacements, although it is often used in conjunction with non-dissolvable stitches
- Removal of breast cancer tumors, mostly because they leave less scarring
All types of wounds and incisions can take these absorbable stitches, but since only a doctor can make the final decision, it is advisable to consult with your physician before you have surgery so that the right choice can be made.
How Long Does It Take for the Sutures to Dissolve?
Most dissolvable sutures last from seven days to several months, and a lot of things can affect that timeframe. These things include:
- The type of wound or surgical procedure you’ve endured
- The materials used in the sutures
- The overall thickness of the sutures
Sometimes, dissolvable stitches will start to absorb in as little as three days, and some are completely dissolved within two weeks. Another factor that affects the absorption rate is the patient’s body characteristics because let’s face it, no two people are exactly alike.
You may have the same body type as someone else and have the same type of surgical procedure yet have completely different timeframes when it comes to how long it takes for your absorbable sutures to dissolve. That being said, the average for these types of stitches to completely dissolve is roughly two to four weeks, sometimes a bit longer.
What to Do If You See a Stray or Loose Stitch
Sometimes, you may see a stray or loose stitch coming from your sutures, and they usually look like small, very thin strings. If this happens, you should immediately contact your doctor, who will tell you exactly what to do.
Some of what you’re experiencing may be completely normal, while some of it may be something to be concerned about. Only your doctor will know for sure.
Just so you know, most problems with dissolvable stitches are caused by not taking proper care of the incision site. Make sure you keep the site clean and dry, and never put any ointment or cream on it unless directed to by your physician.
In addition, don’t scratch or pick at the site, because it can become irritated and swollen.
Allergic Reactions to Dissolvable Stitches
First of all, there is a difference between an allergy and a reaction. Just because you react to your dissolvable sutures doesn’t mean you have an allergy to them.
If you have an allergy to any type of material, you should let your doctor know before the surgery so that only the right types of sutures are used.
In the meantime, you should know that if you experience any type of redness, swelling, pain or tenderness, or oozing liquid from your sutures, you should let the doctor know immediately. Only a qualified physician can determine if the problem is just a reaction to something or a full-blown allergic reaction.