I had never had surgery before and was curious to see what my stitches (also known as sutures) looked like and how they were actually used to “stitch” the skin together. This is what they looked like 3 days after my Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) with Lateral Thigh Lift operation.
What Are Surgical Sutures/Stitches?
“A suture is a medical device that doctors, and especially surgeons, use to hold skin, internal organs, blood vessels and all other tissues of the human body together, after they have been severed by injury or surgery. They must be strong (so they do not break), non-toxic and hypoallergenic (to avoid adverse reactions in the body), and flexible (so they can be tied and knotted easily). In addition, they must lack the so called “wick effect”, which means that sutures must not allow fluids to penetrate the body through them from outside, which could easily cause infections.” ref: Wikepedia.
What Kind of Sutures Are There?
There are two kinds of sutures, absorbable sutures and non-absorbable sutures. With time, absorbable sutures will break down and be absorbed by the body, while non-absorbable sutures will not and must be removed manually. The type of sutures used depends on the function, location and environment. A absorbable sutures are often used internally; non-absorbable externally.
When are my stitches removed after my surgery?
They are generally removed 1-2 weeks following surgery. The sooner the better to prevent and minimize scarring.
What are Sutures made of?
Absorbable sutures were originally made of the intestines of sheep (catgut). Today, the majority of absorbable sutures are now made of synthetic polymer fibers which offer ease of handling, low cost, low tissue reaction, consistent performance and guaranteed non-toxicity.
How long does it take absorbable sutures to be absorbed by the body?
It takes absorbable sutures anywhere from 10 days to eight weeks to be absorbed by the body.
How many stitches will I have for my Tummy Tuck?
The amount varies with each operation. I had a combined abdominoplasty with Lateral Thigh Lift so I had them on my front, sides and back. If you zoom in on the above picture you can count 6-7 on the belly portion.
Will sneezing cause the stitches for abdominoplasty to tear?
It is possible for sneezing to cause them to tear. Any violent pulling or stretching of the area at or surrounding the incision area may cause damage to the stitches. Holding your stomach area with your hands and wearing a tightly fitted compression garment while sneezing should reduce the chance of tearing them.
Do they stitch the drain holes?
When the surgical drain tubes are inserted into your body the surgeon will likely stitch them in place so they don’t move or come out. When the drains are removed the surgeon cuts the stitches and pulls out the tubing. The remaining drain tube hole seals itself quickly and requires no stitches.
Does it hurt when the stitches are removed?
No it doesn’t hurt when they are removed from an incision. The surgeon simply snips them with a pair of scissors and removes them with tweezers or his fingers. You may feed a slight pulling of the skin but you should not feel and pain. That area will be numb from surgery for several more weeks anyway.
How long does stitches stay on following surgery?
Typically they will stay for one to two weeks. The decision to remove them will be made by your surgeon at one of your follow-up visits.
How to clean my stitches after surgery?
You have to be very careful when cleaning them. Some people clean the skin near the stitches with a Q-tip and a mixture of peroxide and water being very careful not to disturb or pull them. After the incision has healed a while and you are permitted to shower you can clean them with antibacterial soap and gentle massaging with your hand. Avoid direct water spray on the stitch and incision area.
How to protect my stitches on my abdomen?
Protect them by keeping them covered with a bandage and compression garment.
How would I know if I busted some stitches?
Some patients describe that they hear a “pop” after doing some type of physical activity.
What do the stitches looks like after an operation?
This picture shows what they look like. You can see the detail of the stitches if you zoom in on the picture.
Are outside sutures of a tummy tuck dissolvable?
There is generally no need for the outside sutures to be dissolvable. They are easily removed by the surgeon with a pair scissors and tweezers.
- How do you know if your doctor used absorbable sutures?
The only way to know if your doctor used absorbable sutures for your operation is to ask him.
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Subject: Sutures; Stitches
If you snap or pull a suture on the inside of your tummy tuck can there be damage done?
Response – Charlene,
I never had that problem so I don’t have any first hand experience with breaking stitches but here is a good source of info on it. http://www.realself.com/question/tummy-tuck-tore-sutures
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2010
Subject: Feedback Form
I always inspired by you, your thoughts and attitude, again, thanks for this nice post.
Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 9:24 PM
Subject: Tummy Tuck Sutures
Hi….I am just over 2 weeks post op. My internal muscles did have some diastis and needed to be sutured back. My main concern is the longevity of the sutures. My doctor says they last a lifetime. I am an active 45 yr. old runner. I also use some weights and definitely work on my core. I am so concerned that the core workouts and ab exercises will bust my sutures. I would love to hear of some success stories to maybe ease my concerns. Thank you!
Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 9:24 PM
Subject: Tummy Tuck Absorbable Sutures
Hi, my question is regarding a tt that I had a year ago. I had to redo it because the results were awful. When the second plastic surgeon went in to tight my muscle he didn’t find envy evidence of suture, so he has to tight my muscles again. So in this case, what could happened. When I asked the first surgeon he said that he used absorbable suture. Is this makes any sense?. Can this be possible? Please, help me with this matter. I feel frustrated. Thanks
I know very little about the surgical use of sutures but as I understand it most surgeons use a combination of absorbable and permanent sutures for tt surgery. Absorbable sutures for surface/skin sutures and permanent sutures to tighten muscles. That would make sense.
Out of curiosity I did a little research and found the following that may provide additional information.
“Normally, permanent sutures are only used inside to hold the muscle in place. Generally, skin sutures are dissolvable.”
Many surgeons refer to “tightening of the muscles”. This is in fact never done during a tummy tuck. Rather, the fascia, the tough lining of the muscles, is tightened.
I can see why you are frustrated. You are probably thinking.. Did my first surgeon make a mistake and use the wrong type of suture? Did he just not suture my stomach muscles and lie about it later?
You may never know. Even if he did use absorbable stitches to tighten you muscles, or for that matter did not tighten your muscles at all, it may not be “legally wrong” and that choice may be at the discretion of the surgeon. What does your second surgeon say about this?
If you don’t get a clear cut answer and you really want closure on this it seems like you have a long road ahead of you. Consulting with other surgeons (your only real source of medical expertise), checking into the background of the first surgeon (for previous lawsuits and malpractice) then if appropriate, contacting lawyers to see if you have any legal recourse can extend your frustration for months or years. Is the time spent, money spent, sleepless nights and additional frustration worth it?