What Is a Silk Suture?

Equipment used to place and remove silk sutures.
Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Article Details
  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A silk suture is a braided thread made from a naturally-occurring substance known as fibroin. It is used by doctors and nurses in the repair of internal and external wounds. This type of material is typically not absorbed quickly by the body, and strengthens wounded tissues so that they may have time to heal and repair themselves. There are many types of silk sutures available and the type used usually depends on the kind of wound being treated and the doctor's personal preference.

There are many options available to doctors for the purpose of closing wounds. These include sutures, staples, tape, and adhesive. The primary purpose of them is to maintain tensile strength across the wound as the body heals and grows connective tissues around the area. The method used is typically determined by the type of wound being treated, and the tissue in which that wound occurred.

A silk suture is a foreign entity placed within the body and can cause infection. For this reason, it is important to maintain sterility around the site of the sutures and to ensure that the sutures themselves are sterile before using them. A course of antibiotics is generally prescribed after treatment to prevent infection.

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Silk sutures tend to cause an immediate inflammation in the tissues in which they are placed due to the natural properties of the silk itself. This swelling generally subsides as the tissues begin to grow around the sutures and encapsulate them. This typically occurs within two to three weeks of their initial placement. Silk sutures may lose their tensile strength within one year of placement.

A proper silk suture should not fray or contain any form of irritant. It also should maintain tensile strength long enough for a wound to heal and should remain strong without mechanical assistance. The silk suture is available in a variety of colors. In the U.S, colored dyes used on sutures must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Darker colors are typically preferable in situations where thread should remain visible against the tissue.

Silk sutures are available as either monofilament or multi-filament strands. A monofilament strand consists of one strand of material. It has a low threshold for infection in that it does not easily harbor pathogens. Its thin nature also allows it to pass easily through tissues. It is, however, delicate and great care must be taken when tying it, to avoid nicking and breaking the thread.

The multi-filament type is comprised of multiple threads that are either braided or twisted together. This kind of silk suture is stronger than a monofilament and maintains greater tensile strength. Its braided nature can allow for the introduction of pathogens into the wound area and may create a higher probability of infection.

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