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What Is a Figure Eight Suture?

Equipment used to place and remove sutures.
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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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A figure eight suture is a wound closure technique utilized in the repair of soft tissue. It is often used to quickly close open wounds that are bleeding heavily when there is not a visibly damaged blood vessel. When two or more layers of muscle are torn or injured, the figure eight suture method joins both layers with one stitching process, promoting a faster healing period. It may be used to repair a torn rectal sphincter or vaginal mucosa after childbirth because the figure eight stitch is less likely to pull at the delicate tissue throughout recovery.

In the figure eight suture technique, the needle is inserted into the tissue from the same direction each time it is passed through the wound. First, the surgeon will identify the deepest area of damage and insert the needle through the tissue. The suture thread is then advanced through the most superficial layer of tissue on the other side of the wound. This process continues until the wound is closed and all bleeding has stopped.

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A figure eight suture may be used to repair a tibial eminence fracture that can occur from abnormally high tension on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee. Most fractures of this type occur between the ages of eight and 14, when the skeleton is still immature. The surgeon will use a figure eight suture to reduce and fixate the fracture. Knee injuries treated with this type of suture are more likely to have full range of motion restored after physical rehabilitation has been completed.

This type of suture may be used to connect two pieces of the intestines during a surgical procedure called gastrointestinal anastomosis (GIA). A continuous figure eight suture is used along the transmural inner layer of the intestine, and another line of sutures may be placed immediately after the first. The second seromuscular layer is attached with an interrupted suture pattern.

A person diagnosed with diverticulitis or someone who needs an intestinal bypass due to the formation of a tumor or strangulated hernia may need to undergo GIA to restore normal intestinal functionality. The figure eight stitch is preferred for this procedure because of its haemostatic properties, and its ability to create a fluid-tight seal when connecting the two parts of the intestine. Patients that undergo GIA using the combination of the figure eight stitch and the intermittent suture have less incidence of bowel leakage following the operation. The use of continuous figure eight suturing methods result in less strangulation of the intestinal tissue and helps to prevent the formation of necrotic tissue in the healing wound.

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