Shelf life of Sutures

This week I had a talk with both a doctor and a nurse regarding sutures and their shelf life.  Until recently I was unaware of the fact that this was a consideration.


The information I was given is as follows, sutures come primarily in two types absorbable (naturally biodegradable in the body) or non-absorbable.  Absorbable sutures are marked with an expiration date that is considered to be fairly accurate.  In other words they breakdown and become unusable fairly close to their expiration date.  The shelf life of the absorbable suture seems to be in the area of about five years from date of manufacturer.  The date should be marked on both the box and the individually package sutures. Absorbable sutures are made from catgut, polyglycolic acid, polylactic acid, and polydioxanone.

Nylon suture

Non absorbable sutures are primarily manufactured from special silk or synthetics polypropylene, polyester or nylon.  The packages they come in are also marked with an expiration date which seems to run in the 4-5 year area depending on the brand.  However I was told that these can be used well past their expiration date in an emergency.  I then opened a package that was about 20 years old and found that the suture material had lost a good portion of its strength.  So if you are storing suture materials you may want to check them periodically to make sure they are not out of date.


See also  Medical Training

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3 thoughts on “Shelf life of Sutures”

  1. Matt in Oklahoma

    Many moons ago i worked for a vet and we used alot of expired stuff with no issues EXCEPT the catgut which as you state needs to be used by that date or it is pretty much worthless. There are some places that sell out of date but still good and sealed sutures to use for practice fairly cheap. I’d rather have quality for my stored stuff myself but having a few for training aint a bad idea. You can sew up a ready to cook chicken or pillow. Mine are for SHTF only, I’m no way subscribing to being your own DR.
    I kinda lean away from sutures in emergencies unless i have antibiotics because there is no way to clean the area if infection starts. Scarring Post SHTF wont be as much of an issue which is mainly why they are used as opposed to butterflys or other methods.
    Just my thoughts, I’m not medical but maybe some medical folks can jump in on this.

  2. How about alternatives? Such as fishing line or quilting thread? I would imagine the key would be the ability to sterilize them. I think I’ll have to do some testing. Good article to think about.

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