How long it takes dissolvable stitches to dissolve will depend on the type of material that the suture is made of. Complete absorption by the body can take anywhere from 21 to 238 days but it depends on the material.
With that being said, absorbable stitches will often fall out well before that time. We’re going to explain what all of that means so that you know when you can expect yours to dissolve.
Suture dissolving times
The dissolution time for self dissolving stitches are completely dependent upon the type of material they’re made of. Evidence of this can be seen by the different dissolving times among the different materials.
Below is a table showing the various types of materials sutures are made of and also the estimated time for them to be absorbed.
|Absorbable Sutures||Dissolution Time|
|Fast Gut||21-42 days|
|Plain Gut||70 days|
|Chromic Gut||90 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 631||90-110 days|
|Polyglytone 6211||56 days|
|Poliglecaprone (Monocryl)||90-120 days|
In summary, the absorbable sutures can dissolve as quickly as 21 days (plain gut) or it can take as long as 238 days (polydioxanone). The rest of the materials fall somewhere in the middle between those two.
Natural vs Synthetic
Aside from the gut sutures, most of the dissolvable stitches are synthetically made. The synthetic ones can last a lot longer than the natural ones but some of them can also dissolve faster as well.
- Fast gut
- Plain gut
- Chromic gut
- Polyglycolic acid
- Polytrimethylene carbonate
- Polyglactin 910
- Glycomer 631
- Polyglytone 6211
Therefore, the rate of absorption is not dependent upon whether they are naturally made or synthetically made. So don’t go thinking one is better than the other because they all serve different purposes.
Absorption Vs Falling out
The sutures dissolving time listed in the table above are estimates for how long it takes for them to be completely absorbed. That time is different from when the stitches can potentially fall out on their own.
- Complete absorption. The absorption time is when the body completely breaks down the material. The initial shape and structure of the thread will cease to be.
- Falling out on their own. Stitches can fall out well before they get completely absorbed by the body. This happens when the material dissolves enough that the rest of it just falls off on their own due to compromise of its structural integrity.
Despite the long dissolving times listed in the table, patients will often find that their sutures can fall out well before the stated time.
A classic example would be dissolvable wisdom teeth stitches, which are expected to fall out after 10-14 days. That is despite the fact that the two most commonly used suture materials, chromic gut (90 days) and vicryl (42 days), take much longer than that to be absorbed.
How dissolvable sutures work is that they’re made of materials that can be naturally broken down by the body’s pre-existing mechanisms.
- Natural stitches dissolve via proteolytic enzymatic degradation.
- Synthetic stitches dissolve via hydrolysis which is degradation using water.
Essentially the threads (long strands of polymers) get broken up into their smaller respective monomers which can then be absorbed by the body.
Since most of them degrade in the presence of water, you shouldn’t worry about them not dissolving. Patients often wonder what happens if they don’t dissolve.
How to tell if they’re dissolvable
The fool proof way to figure out if they can dissolve is by asking your doctor. They’re the ones who put them in so they’ll know if they used absorbable or non-absorbable sutures.
However, another but less precise way to tell is to identify them by color.
- Absorbable stitches color can be yellow, purple, green or white.
- Non-absorbable stitches color can be black, blue, green, metal or white.
The color can usually give you the correct answer but you do have to be cautious with the white stitches. As you may have noticed, the color white is used for both types of sutures.
The reason is because all of them are originally UNDYED but they become DYED for ease of recognition. Medical supply companies will sell both dyed and undyed versions.
Ultimately, it’ll be hard to figure out when your sutures will dissolve purely based on their color.
The length of time it takes for dissolvable sutures to be absorbed can take as little as 21 days or as long as 238 days. It basically comes down to what type of material it is made of because that is the determining factor to its dissolution time.