Three things about surgical suture that can keep you up at night

By Dr. Courtney Campbell, KeraVet Bio Advisor

There’s a lot to consider when suturing a wound. Suturing wounds and apposing tissue must be done in consideration of suture material, anticipated wound healing times, tissue types, local factors, location of the wound, as well as other specific patient factors like (e.g., age, weight, overall health status, presence of infection), and a host of other factors. The process of selecting suture shouldn’t be another source of anxiety in the operating room.

Here are three factors about suture that, when considered appropriately, can help you sleep better at night.

1. Infection

The sources and potential causes for surgical site infection are plentiful. From surgical preparation, to patient health status, to surgical technique, and perioperative use of antibiotics, there are a host of variables that can potentially contribute to surgical site infection. Therefore, attention to detail during surgery is a top priority. One detail that warrants serious attention in the prevention of surgical site infections is suture choice.

Monofilament has an advantage over other sutures in helping to prevent surgical site             infection. The advantage of monofilament suture is rooted in its ability to decrease bacterial bio-adhesion and its ability for phagocytes to reach bacteria on the suture. To underscore the importance of monofilament suture, one company now has a monofilament option on every type of surgery in their armamentarium.*

Triclosan coated suture can also be considered when looking to decrease surgical site infection. Although some earlier studies have questioned their use, a recent study indicated that suture type may be an important factor in the efficacy of triclosan. The in vitro study found that among the 3 triclosan-coated sutures used in the present study – triclosan-coated polydioxanone (monofilament, poliglecaprone-25 (monofilament), and polyglactin-910 (multifilament), polyglactin-910 had the smallest zones of inhibition for all of the bacterial isolates, and durations of inhibition were shorter for this suture type than for the 2 monofilament sutures. On visual assessment, uncoated polyglactin-910 suture was found to have the greatest burden of adherent bacteria (E coli). Although in vivo prospective investigation is required to confirm that their results would be similar in a clinical setting, their study provided compelling in vitro evidence to support the use of triclosan-coated materials in contaminated surgical sites or in patients for which the development of surgical site infection would lead to severe morbidity.

Due to the morbidity related to surgical site infections, the patient welfare implications, and other evidence suggesting that triclosan-coated suture materials are safe, it is wise to consider their use. Additionally, CDC recommendations in the human medical field support their potential to decrease the incidence of surgical site infections.

2. Memory

Monofilament sutures have multiple advantages over multifilament sutures; however, multifilament does have the edge when it comes to memory. A suture with a high memory will spring back to its original position. While suture with high memory tends to be strong, it may be difficult to handle and have decreased knot security.

This may cause your suture line to tangle, induce a great deal of frustration, and risks knot failure during healing. The knot security is lower in sutures with high memory because the suture has a tendency to return to its original straight extruded state. Therefore, more throws in the knot are required to securely hold monofilament than braided nylon sutures. Furthermore, sutures with a high degree of memory can be more challenging to handle and can increase surgical time.

Although many surgeons stretch the suture to remove suture memory, that technique may cause inadvertent displacement of the swaged-on needle from the suture strand.

Fortuitously, sutures have been made available in racetrack packaging. This innovative storage solution gives sutures fewer turns around the track, which allow for less memory, easier handling and faster, more efficient, wound closure.

3. Absorption

It is not natural for the body to contain suture. By definition, suture material is a foreign body implanted into tissues. As a foreign material, it is possible for suture to elicit a foreign-body tissue reaction. Among the various characteristics of an ideal suture material, having a favorable absorption profile, low tissue reactivity and high tensile strength are some of the most important.

Absorbable sutures are intended to temporarily support the wound during the natural healing process. Absorption occurs by enzymatic degradation in natural materials and by hydrolysis in synthetic materials. Hydrolysis causes less tissue reaction than enzymatic degradation. If the suture degrades too quickly, the wound may dehisce with normal movement and stress. Therefore, it is paramount to select suture material with the ideal tensile strength and the optimal absorption rate for the surgical wound. It is important to remember that loss of tensile strength and absorption rate are two separate characteristics.

Suture absorption rates can be generally defined as short term, mid term, and long term. In some circles, long term has also colloquially been referred to as “Max” as in the maximum time suture mass absorption occurs for the suture to still be considered absorbable.

The differences in the suture absorption rates can be complicated and difficult to remember. To help simplify your choice, consider selecting suture material with the absorption speed incorporated into the name of the suture. This may help make the process easier particularly in cases in which it’s difficult to recall the exact mass absorption times. For example, it may be more challenging to the remember the absorption time of suture labeled “Glyconate monofilament suture” versus a suture labeled “Glyconate – Short term” or “Glyconate Mid Term.”

Although the factors that influence final wound and tissue healing can seem overwhelming, allow your suture selection to improve your chance for an excellent surgical outcome.

This article has been modified to better fit this format. This article was origionally posted on

To learn more about KeraVet Bio Advisor, Dr. Courtney Campbell, DVM, DACVS-SA, visit his page on LinkedIn.

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