What to Know About Absorbable Sutures

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on July 10, 2023
3 min read

‌Absorbable sutures, also known as dissolvable stitches, are sutures that can naturally dissolve and be absorbed by the body as a wound heals. Not all wounds are sealed with absorbable sutures. Doctors generally evaluate your wound to decide on the best types of sutures to use.

‌Absorbable sutures are stitches made from materials that the body can naturally absorb over time. They’re made of materials such as the fibers that line animal intestines or artificially created polymers that easily dissolve into the body. 

Unlike sutures made from nylon or silk, absorbable sutures do not need to be removed by a doctor. This makes them ideal for healing internal wounds and surgical sites. 

‌The biggest benefit of absorbable stitches is the fact that the body breaks them down over time. This makes these sutures ideal for sealing up surgical sites, especially tissue inside the body that is hard to reach after the surgery.

Another benefit of absorbable stitches is that they tend to be more flexible than non-absorbable stitches. Because of this, doctors can suture the wound while matching its shape, which is good for helping to heal jagged wounds and spongy surgical sites. 

‌Doctors prefer to use absorbable or non-absorbable sutures based on their personal choice and the type of surgery you’ve had. Absorbable sutures may not last as long as non-absorbable sutures because they dissolve over time.

At one time, it was believed that this type of suture reopened your wounds more often than the non-absorbable kind. However, research shows that wounds sealed using absorbable sutures have less of a chance of reopening compared with non-absorbable ones. 

Your body may be extra-sensitive to absorbable sutures, as it recognizes the material as a foreign substance. This can cause a reaction and delay the process of wound healing.

‌How long absorbable sutures take to dissolve depends on the material of the sutures used. 

Doctors choose their suture material based on how long it takes a wound to heal. So, for example, after a C-section, a doctor may choose a suture material that will dissolve within a few weeks, while they may choose a material that takes several months to dissolve if they’re sealing a hip replacement

‌Your doctor will give you specific instructions for how to take care of your stitches based on the type of absorbable sutures they use. You must follow your doctor’s instructions, as they have the most up-to-date information about your particular wound recovery. In general, however, there are some rules to follow. 

‌Keep the area dry. Absorbable sutures are less likely to break down early or get infected if they’re dry. You’ll want to avoid soaking in tubs — though showering is usually okay after 24 hours — and ensure that you pat the area dry after each rinse. 

Don’t strain your wound. Because absorbable sutures don’t last as long as other types of stitches, you should stay away from activities that could strain the site until you’re done healing. 

Keep checking your wound. If you notice any soreness, itchiness, or numbness around the stitches, it may be infected. You must keep checking your stitches to be sure that the area is safe from infection.‌‌

Change dressings regularly. If your doctor has put a surgical dressing over your sutures, you’ll want to follow their instructions about how often to change the dressing. If you get extra sweaty on a hot day, you may need to change the dressing even more often. 

‌You should never remove your stitches unless your doctor has given you clear instructions to do so. 

Dissolvable stitches generally don’t need to be removed because they dissolve on their own. Removing stitches too soon can result in‌:‌‌

  • Reopening of the wound
  • Infection
  • More scarring
  • Poor healing
  • The need for additional follow-up care

‌One reason people choose to remove stitches early is that the incision site can itch. Instead of removing the stitches, you should treat the itching. Some suggestions for how to do this include: ‌

  • Apply an ice pack to the area
  • Use an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl
  • Apply an over-the-counter anti-itch cream
  • Keep the wound covered to prevent irritation

‌By treating the itch instead of removing the stitches, you’ll give your wound the time it needs to heal completely and allow your absorbable sutures to do their job.