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 could take several months before your stitches disappear completely. After the wound has healed, it may be possible for a nurse to remove the loose ends of the dissolvable stitches, to speed up the process.

Ask your surgeon or the health professional treating you if they can tell 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 do 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. They 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).

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

If they are still bothering you after the wound has healed, make an appointment with a nurse at your local GP surgery. They can gently remove any loose ends that are visible.

What else can be used to close a wound?

Other ways 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.

Read the answers to more questions about accidents and first aid.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 08/03/2014

Next review due: 07/03/2016