How to Care for Dissolvable Stitches

Absorbable sutures, or dissolvable stitches, do not need to be removed. Dissolvable stitches contain unique materials that can remain in the body for an extended time. Over weeks or months, your body dissolves the stitches, well after your incision has closed.

You are probably familiar with standard stitches. The most common stitches are the type you may have received when you had a deep cut on your finger or a similar injury. Suture material, a sterile kind of thread, is used to sew a wound closed.

Non-dissolvable stitches stay in place for a week or two while the wound heals. A nurse or doctor then takes them out to keep the sutures from growing into new, healthy skin. However, you don't have to have dissolvable stitches removed.

This article explains when doctors might use dissolvable stitches and how to care for them.

Caring for Absorbable Stitches
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Uses of Dissolvable Stitches

Dissolvable stitches are often used internally after surgery to close the deepest parts of an incision. But they are also used on the surface of the skin.

When a surgeon makes an incision, they cut through more than the skin. They also cut through the fat underneath your skin and sometimes through muscle and other tissues.

Your surgeon may close the deeper parts of the incision with dissolvable stitches and then use more stitches on your skin's surface. They might also use another type of closure, such as adhesive strips or surgical skin glue.

Dissolvable stitches vary widely in both strength and how long they take for your body to reabsorb them. Some types dissolve as quickly as 10 days, while others can take about six months to dissolve fully.

The type of suture your doctor uses depends on a few things, including:

  • Your surgeon's preference
  • How strong the suture needs to be to support the incision properly
  • How quickly your body works to dissolve the material

Recap

Dissolvable stitches are often used after surgery to close the deepest part of an incision. Doctors can also use them on the surface of the skin.

Care of Dissolvable Stitches

If your dissolvable stitches are on your skin, cleaning them is easy. Cleaning tips for sutured skin include:

  • Clean from the center outward: The best way to clean your incision is to clean from the "dirtiest" part to the "cleanest" part. That usually means you should start at the center of your incision and move out.
  • Leave scabs alone: If you have scabs on your sutures, do not scrub them away. Scabs are typical and, while they may be annoying, they are a sign that your skin is healing.
  • Be gentle: Gently wash your incision in the shower, just like you would wash any other part of your body. Use a mild soap and water to clean your incision.
  • Avoid creams and ointments: Do not use a cream or lotion on your wound unless your doctor has instructed you to.
  • Avoid soaking: Also, avoid bathing and swimming until your incision is fully closed.

You should never scrub your incision. Doing so can be very irritating to the healing skin. It can also make it harder for your wound to close.

Don't forget to inspect your wound daily for signs of infection or drainage from your injury. Signs of infection may include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Discharge from the wound
  • Change in appearance

Recap

Wash external incisions with gentle soap and water. Do not scrub, and don't remove the scabs.

Avoid Peroxide

Research has shown that peroxide can reduce the strength of dissolvable sutures. Therefore, you should not clean most surgical incisions with hydrogen peroxide of any strength unless your surgeon specifically tells you to do so.

In addition to weakening the sutures, peroxide is too harsh for most incisions and can irritate. Using peroxide can sometimes lead to infection if you use it near your surgical site.

Recap

Avoid using peroxide on stitched wounds. Instead, use water and mild soap to gently clean your incision or your stitches. It's also best to avoid alcohol-based products as well.

What if You Can Feel the Sutures?

Many people worry when they can feel their dissolvable stitches under their incision, even after it appears to have completely healed. Usually, this is not a cause for concern. It is normal to be able to feel internal sutures.

While most dissolvable stitches do absorb within about six months, there is a wide range of normal. For example, yours may be gone quicker, or they may take far longer to dissolve completely.

Feeling your stitches is not cause for alarm. Sometimes what you feel may not even be the sutures—it may also be feeling scar tissue, which is typical for a surgical incision.

Recap

Try to avoid rubbing or poking at your incision site. Your skin may close far faster than the deeper parts of your incision. Therefore, repeatedly scratching your surgical site can delay your healing process.

Summary

Dissolvable stitches are a convenient way to suture wounds and incisions. Unlike regular stitches that require removal, your body absorbs dissolvable stitches so that they do not require removal.

To care for dissolvable stitches, wash with a gentle cleanser. Avoid scrubbing, picking at scabs, and hydrogen peroxide.

A Word From Verywell

Absorbable sutures are standard and very safe. The best part is there is no need for a follow-up procedure to remove the stitches once the wound heals. 

Dissolvable stitches aren't appropriate for every injury but are an excellent way to close many surgical incisions. If you wonder if dissolvable stitches are a good option for your wound or incision, ask your doctor about it.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Stubsgaard AJ, Andresen K, Rosenberg J. [The optimal timing of suture removal depends on the anatomical location]. Ugeskr Laeg. 2015;177(45):V05150390.

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  5. Athre RS, Park J, Leach JL. The effect of a hydrogen peroxide wound care regimen on tensile strength of suture. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2007;9(4):281-4. doi:10.1001/archfaci.9.4.281

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