Stitches, also called sutures, is the name given to a medical device that holds the skin or other connective tissue together after it has been severed. Stitches are usually applied with a needle and thread similar to stitching material together. Historically stitches were made from organic materials such as catgut or silk. Modern stitches are synthetic and can be absorbable or non-absorbable. Absorbable stitches are broken down by the body and do not require removal. Non-absorbable stitches must be removed from the body.
How long does it take for stitches to dissolve?
Dissolvable stitches or absorbable stitches are used in patients that cannot return to have the stitches removed or are used to stitch together internal body tissues. There are made from materials such as polyglycolic acid (Biovek), polylactic acid, polydioxanone, and caprolactone that can be broken down by the body over time. Many of these materials will dissolve in ten to fourteen days, although some can take up to eight weeks to fully dissolve. Dissolvable stitches will hold the tissue together long enough to allow the wound to heal, but do not leave behind foreign materials. Some people may have a reaction to the absorbable materials and the body may reject it rather than absorb it.
Non-absorbable stitches such as those made from silk, nylon or polyester do not dissolve. These stitches need to be removed from the body. The length of time that stitches can remain in the body depends on the area of the body that is sutured. Stitches on the face need to be removed within 3-5 days as this area heals quickly and leaving stitches longer than necessary can cause scarring. Scalp wounds need stitches removed 7 to 10 days after insertion. Removal from limb and joint wounds should occur between 10 and 14 days after insertion and any stitches in the trunk of the body should be removed between 7 and 10 days.