What Happens If My Dissolvable Stitches Don’t Dissolve?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

It is impossible for dissolvable stitches to not dissolve because they were made to be broken down by water via hydrolysis.

Patients are often concerned when they don’t see the sutures dissolving but they often underestimate the time it takes absorbable stitches to dissolve. We will describe the different types of materials and when they’re expected to get absorbed.

Purple stitches on stone tooth model

Last but not least, sometimes the stitches don’t get a chance to even dissolve because a complication called a spitting suture may occur.

Dissolvable stitches will dissolve via hydrolysis

Most dissolvable stitches are made of materials that are meant to dissolve in the presence of water aka hydrolysis. That is a chemical reaction where a molecule of water breaks one or more bonds thus forming smaller molecules.

polyglycolic acid hydrolysis mechanism
Hydrolysis reaction of PGA stitches

Since the degradation process uses water, that makes it near impossible for the stitches to not dissolve because up to 60% of the adult human body is composed of water.

Below is a chart of all of the absorbable sutures and their dissolution mechanism.

Type of SutureHow its MadeType of MaterialHow it Dissolves
Fast GutNaturalAnimal intestinesProteolytic enzymes
Plain GutNaturalAnimal intestinesProteolytic enzymes
Chromic GutNaturalAnimal intestinesProteolytic enzymes
Polyglycolic acidSyntheticPolymersHydrolysis
Polytrimethylene carbonateSyntheticCopolymersHydrolysis
Polyglactin 910SyntheticCopolymersHydrolysis
Glycomer 631SyntheticCopolymersHydrolysis
Polyglytone 6211SyntheticCopolymersHydrolysis
Dissolvable stitches chart and how they dissolve

As you can see most of the suture materials degrade via hydrolysis except the gut-type of sutures which dissolve via proteolytic enzymes. Nonetheless, the gut stitches are made of animal intestines so it’s literally food and we all know that food can be degraded in the body.

Expected time for sutures to dissolve

Dissolvable stitches can take as little as 3 weeks to dissolve but also as long as 7 months for them to be completely absorbed by the body. Yes, you read that correctly, it takes a minimum of at least 3 weeks and sometimes it can take more than half a year.

Below is a table showing the estimated time it takes each absorbable sutures to dissolve.

Absorbable SuturesDissolution Time
Fast Gut21-42 days
identify them by colorPlain Gut70 days
Chromic Gut90 days
Polyglycolic acid (PGA)60-90 days
Polydioxanone (PDS)182-238 days
Polytrimethylene carbonate (Maxon)120-180 days
Polyglactin 910 (Vicryl rapide)42 days
Glycomer 63190-110 days
Polyglytone 621156 days
Poliglecaprone (Monocryl)90-120 days
Table – When absorbable stitches dissolve

The length of time it takes them to dissolve is often much longer than what most people expect. On average, most patients think something is wrong when they don’t see their stitches dissolving after a week but little do they know, it often takes longer than that.

It is mostly due to the underestimation of how long it takes absorbable sutures to dissolve that has patients worried. Therefore, it is mostly a misunderstanding and if you know which type of suture material you have, you’ll get a better estimate.

To find out which one you have, You can ask your doctor or you can try to identify them by color. Most of them are color coded for ease of identification.

Dissolvable stitches - undyed, violet, gold colored sutures
Dissolvable stitches – undyed, violet, gold colored

After all, don’t forget that it is near impossible for them to not get absorbed since they degrade in the presence of water and our bodies are made of mostly water.

Spitting suture complication

There is a post-operative complication called a spitting suture, which is the only time where your stitches won’t get the chance to dissolve. It’s not that they won’t dissolve, they simply won’t have the opportunity to do it.

This condition is when your body rejects the dissolvable stitch and attempts to push it out of your body. That means instead of the normal dissolution process, your body is physically trying to migrate it out of your skin.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Redness in the area
  • Can be slightly swollen
  • Small raised bump
  • Stitches poking through the skin
  • Mild pain or discomfort
  • Foreign body sensation

This is literally the only situation where they won’t dissolve but the end result is still removable of them. The sutures are getting expelled by your own body.

If you have a spitting suture, you should return to your dentist/physician or whoever it is that put them in to have them removed. The condition is often painful and it can get infected.


If you’ve dissolvable stitches, you can rest assured that they will dissolve because they’re made of materials that degrade in the presence of water. Since our bodies are mostly composed of water, that makes it highly unlikely for them to not breakdown.

Although there is one situation where the absorbable sutures may not get the chance to dissolve and that is if you have a spitting suture complication. In lieu of dissolving them, your body actually rejects them but physically pushing them out of your skin via the healing process.


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