Common Health Questions

How long will my stitches (sutures) take to dissolve?

It depends on what they’re made from. Most dissolvable stitches start to break down within one to two weeks. However, it may take several months before your stitches disappear completely.

Ask your surgeon or the healthcare professional treating you:

  • what kind of stitches you’ve been given
  • how long they will take to dissolve

For advice on looking after your stitches, see How should I care for my stitches (sutures)?

What are dissolvable stitches?

Stitches are classed as dissolvable or absorbable if they lose most of their strength within 60 days. The stitches are dissolved by:

  • enzymes in your body tissues (enzymes are proteins that speed up and control chemical reactions in your body)
  • hydrolysis (a chemical reaction with the water inside your body) 

What are dissolvable stitches made of?

In the UK, most dissolvable stitches are made of:

  • polyglactin: this should lose 25% of its strength after two weeks, 50% of its strength after three weeks, and fully dissolve after three months
  • polyglycolic acid: this should lose 40% of its strength after one week, 95% of its strength after four weeks, and fully dissolve after three to four months 

There are several other different types of stitches. In general, if your stitches are dissolvable, they should start to break down within four weeks. Some may take six months to disappear completely.

When are dissolvable stitches used?

Dissolvable stitches may be used on deep surgical wounds or surface wounds.

Dissolvable stitches are normally used for deep wounds, below the surface of your skin. For example, they may be used during heart surgery or a transplant operation.

Dissolvable stitches are also used for wounds on the skin’s surface. For example, they may be used after childbirth, to repair tears in the perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus). 

One study found that when used to repair perineum tears, polyglactin stitches disappeared within three months and polyglycolic acid stitches disappeared within four months

Dissolvable stitches will keep the wound closed until it’s fully healed, and will then slowly disappear.

What else can be used to close a wound?

Other methods of keeping a wound closed include:

  • stitches that don't dissolve
  • clips
  • staples

These will need to be removed by a healthcare professional when the wound has begun to heal.

Last Updated: 05 December 2011