Sutures, sometimes called stitches or staples, are used to close wounds from injuries or surgeries. A resorbable suture, often called an absorbable suture, is one that dissolves over time, eliminating the need for removal. These types of sutures are generally used to close internal lacerations or surgical incisions which cannot be accessed once the outer incision is closed. Such sutures may be used on either humans or animals.
Surgical sutures, which have been in use since ancient Egyptian times, are classified as either absorbable or non-absorbable. Non-absorbable sutures usually are made from materials such as silk, polyester or nylon. An absorbable or resorbable suture is made from either catgut, which was the original material for such sutures, or from synthetics such as polylactic acid, polydioxanone or caprolactone.
A resorbable suture is used to stitch together bodily tissue so that it can heal. Such stitches are applied in virtually the same way non-absorbable sutures are applied: using a special suture needle. Such needles come in a wide range of standard thicknesses and lengths and are usually curved. This curvature allows the doctor to stitch the tissue while having access to only one surface.
While the term "resorbable suture" is commonly used to describe sutures that do not need to be physically removed, "degradable" or "disintegrating" might be more apt descriptors. These sutures are not actually absorbed into the body, but rather are broken down by the processes of hydrolysis or proteolytic enzymatic degradation. These chemical processes eliminate the sutures from the body so that no foreign materials remain.
The time between the insertion of absorbable sutures and the time that they dissolve depends on the thickness and material of the sutures. A resorbable suture may dissolve in as little as a week or may last for up to ten weeks. Doctors choose the suture type based on the patient's history, the type of wound and the length of time the suture needs to remain in place.
In most cases, a resorbable suture is both safe and relatively free of side affects. In some cases, however, the area around such sutures can become inflamed, causing discomfort; irritation; or, occasionally, infection. In rarer cases, a patient's body might react adversely to the material in the sutures and can actually reject them. In these cases, the sutures may need to be removed and replaced, either with sutures of an alternate material or with a surgical adhesive.