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What is a Suture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The term “suture” is used to refer both to a specific technique for closing a wound, in which the sides of the wound are stitched together, and to the individual stitches involved in the wound closure. More generally, a suture is any type of join, which is why people refer to “sutures” in the skull where the plates of the skull fuse together. Sutures are used in a wide variety of types of medical treatment, ranging from surgery to emergency medicine, and they are typically introduced at an early stage in medical education.

When a wound is sutured, the goal is to close it to promote healing. By closing the wound, the doctor can keep the inside of the wound cleaner, and encourage the edges of the wound to fuse back together during the healing and recovery process. In a case where a wound might need to drain fluids, a drain will be implanted during the suturing stage to allow pus and other materials to flow out of the wound.

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Threads used in suturing are highly specialized. They cannot wick materials from the outside world into the wound, as this could promote infection, and they must also be very sturdy, as the sutures will need to withstand a great deal of twisting, flexing, and strain. They must also be hypoallergenic, as a patient reaction is highly undesirable. Historically, sutures were made from meticulously cleaned intestines, but modern sutures may be made from various plastic synthetics or even metal, depending on the situation.

Some sutures are absorbable, which means that as the wound heals, the body dissolves the suture material. Absorbable sutures are commonly used in cases where followup may not be strictly necessary, or in internal surgeries, where future removal of the sutures is a practical impossibility. Other sutures are of the nonabsorbable variety, requiring future attention to remove the sutures. Nonabsorbable sutures are often used when a doctor wants to make sure that a patient receives followup treatment, as the patient must go to the doctor to get the stitches taken out.

Needles for suturing are curved, and they may come prepackaged with suture material, or sold on their own. Prepackaged suturing needle kits are especially useful in emergency medicine, where doctors may need quick access to suturing materials. Individual needles can be useful in environments where needs are more diverse, allowing a doctor flexibility in selecting the best needle and suture material for the patient.

Sutures have been used in medical treatment for centuries. The development of sutures probably owes its start to the practice of sewing, with some intrepid doctor realizing that if one could join two pieces of fabric with stitches, the same could be done with skin. In addition to sutures, doctors can also use surgical staples and specialized glue to close wounds, depending on the patient and the condition.

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Discuss this Article

anon134821
Post 2

Go to the doctor! I am a qualified naturopath and MD, but without evaluating her circumstances I can't say what is best. See a professional. It's for the best.

anon63813
Post 1

my wife's sister has an enormous hernia, and she is a small person, probably about 5 feet 2 inches and when she is sitting the hernia is massive. It accounts for most off her size, it would seem. what can she do about this?

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