Which terms are used to characterize suture material?

Updated: Mar 05, 2020
  • Author: Desiree Ratner, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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In addition, there are various characteristics of suture material that are described with the following terms:

  • Absorbable - Progressive loss of mass or volume of suture material; this does not correlate with initial tensile strength

  • Breaking strength - Limit of tensile strength at which suture failure occurs

  • Capillarity - Extent to which absorbed fluid is transferred along the suture

  • Elasticity - Measure of the ability of the material to regain its original form and length after deformation

  • Fluid absorption - Ability to take up fluid after immersion

  • Knot-pull tensile strength - Breaking strength of knotted suture material (10-40% weaker after deformation by knot placement)

  • Knot strength - Amount of force necessary to cause a knot to slip (this is related to the coefficient of static friction and plasticity of a given material)

  • Memory - Inherent capability of suture to return to or maintain its original gross shape (this is related to elasticity, plasticity, and diameter)

  • Nonabsorbable - Surgical suture material that is relatively unaffected by the biologic activities of the body tissues and is therefore permanent unless removed

  • Plasticity - Measure of the ability to deform without breaking and to maintain a new form after relief of the deforming force

  • Pliability - Ease of handling of suture material; ability to adjust knot tension and to secure knots (this is related to suture material, filament type, and diameter)

  • Straight-pull tensile strength - Linear breaking strength of suture material

  • Suture pullout value - Application of force to a loop of suture located where tissue failure occurs, which measures the strength of a particular tissue; this varies according to anatomic site and histologic composition (fat, 0.2 kg; muscle, 1.27 kg; skin, 1.82 kg; fascia, 3.77 kg)

  • Tensile strength - Measure of the ability of a material or tissue to resist deformation and breakage

  • Wound breaking strength - Limit of tensile strength of a healing wound at which separation of the wound edges occurs

Suture size refers to the diameter of the suture strand and is denoted by means of zeroes. The more zeroes characterizing a suture size, the smaller the resultant strand diameter (eg, 4-0 or 0000 is larger than 5-0 or 00000). The smaller the suture, the less the tensile strength of the strand.

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