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What is a Vicryl™ Suture?

By Maggie Worth
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A Vicryl™ suture is a synthetic, absorbable suture. It is commonly applied to wounds or incisions in interior body tissues, where removal of traditional sutures would be disruptive. Vicryl™ is actually the brand name of a suture material manufactured by Ethicon Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, but the term has fallen into common use to describe any synthetic, absorbable suture composed primarily of polyglactin 910.

The purpose of any suture is to hold the borders of a wound or incision closed until it has time to heal. Surface injuries, such as cuts, are often closed by sutures known as stitches. A Vicryl™ suture serves the same purposes as traditional stitches: to hold the incision closed until it can heal. Unlike stitches, however, absorbable stitches will be broken down by the body's natural processes over time and do not need to be removed. This makes it ideal for sewing together the inner layers of tissue that are cut during a surgery or affected by a deep injury.

The original disposable suture was catgut, a naturally-occurring substance. The Vicryl™ suture replaced this material as the most commonly-used absorbable suture material. Unlike catgut, it is synthetic, which means it is made in a laboratory and not naturally-occurring.

Vicryl™-type sutures have a number of advantages. They are made of braided material, which makes them very strong and allows surgeons to use them in tissues that will not remain at rest during recovery, such as organ tissues. Some types also contain an antibacterial component, which helps prevent infection of the wound or incision site.

Within the body, polyglycolic acid, the main component of a Vicryl™ sutures, is broken down by a process known as hydrolysis. This is a chemical process that causes the molecules of substances, such as polyglycolic acid, to break down by adding water molecules. In most cases, the body will break down a Vicryl™ suture over a period lasting roughly three weeks to 60 days, leaving behind no foreign matter. When used on fast-healing tissues, the sutures are often treated with agents that speed absorption, reducing this time to as little as a week to ten days.

In some cases, the patient's body will reject the sutures rather than absorbing them. This often leads to inflammation and patient discomfort, and can cause serious reactions, such as infection. In these situations, the sutures must be removed and replaced with an alternate material.

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Discussion Comments
By anon331077 — On Apr 20, 2013

I just learned that Vicryl was used during my hip replacement surgery two months ago. The incision is still very sore to the touch, although an ER doctor told me there's no infection. Is this normal or am I having some kind of reaction? I have numerous allergies, especially to medications that don't seem to bother most people. The incision site isn't swollen, but I thought that after two months, I'd be feeling better. Any help is welcome!

By anon260754 — On Apr 12, 2012

As a dental surgeon I use primarily non resorbable sutures. It makes the patient return so I can do a post operative exam and make sure there are no issues with the surgery.

It does not matter that sutures are resorbable or not during the course of healing as far as comfort or discomfort. The patient cannot tell the difference. Removing non resorbable sutures should not involve discomfort. It does not require anesthesia and seldom does the patient know when they are removed.

By amsden2000 — On Jul 10, 2011

@Jacques6 - Not to gross you out or anything, but the original catgut suture was literally made out of animal guts. Cows, goats and sheep were (and still are for some brands) the main source of catgut sutures. Of course, they're sterile and safe -- otherwise these sutures wouldn't be used in surgery.

The connective tissues in the animal intestines happen to make perfect suture material. The stretchy tissue prevents rips when used and isn't harmful to your body.

By MedicineBall — On Jul 09, 2011

@Jacques6 - I wish that my dentist had used these Vicryl sutures when I got my wisdom teeth pulled. It would have saved him some work and me a lot of irritation. The normal stitches always tickled the inside of my cheek -- it drove me crazy.

Most of my sutures fell out on their own but I still had to go in and get the last few pulled out. Not exactly the most comfortable thing to do, but the sutures did the trick. My gums healed up without any issues.

By Jacques6 — On Jul 08, 2011

Sutures that can be absorbed are a blessing when it comes to dental work! When I went in to have a molar pulled, it had grown into my jaw so much that it required basic surgery -- which meant more stitches. I cut my hand on a tuna can years ago and the stitches being removed hurt more than the cut itself!

I wasn't looking forward to having the stitches pulled out of my mouth later -- but my dentist explained that he had used absorbable sutures. Whoever invented these was a genius.

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