How Did We Get Here? The History of Sutures
The sutures we benefit so greatly from today haven’t always been sterile, smooth, and specialized. Over thousands of years, the materials and methods have been improved to give us our modern standards of suturing. But just how far have we come? Check out the evolution of sutures below.
- 30,000 B.C.
Introduction of eyed needles
The fossilized remains of some Neolithic skulls suggest that the world’s first eyed needles were used for surgical purposes, as well as to tie wounds together, at this time.
- 1,600 B.C.
Catgut is implemented as a suturing staple
Catgut (created by twisting sheep or horses intestines) or silk was used by Galen of Pergamon, a Greek surgeon, to repair the severed tendons of gladiators in his day. Sutures of similar material were used well into the 20th century.
- 150 A.D.
Egyptians use sutures for the first time
In Egyptian records, the first historical suture reference is made in regards to treatment of a shoulder wound, directing the drawing together of a gash using stitching.
One man’s speech influences the future of surgery
In the 1800s, surgeons performed operations in their regular street attire and used the same instruments and dressings for each patient they saw, which were not cleansed before reuse. It was at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition’s Medical Congress that Sir Joseph Lester, a British surgeon, gave a presentation that inspired Robert Johnson—a medicated plaster maker—to create Johnson & Johnson with the purpose of furthering the sterile surgery cause.
Mersutures are invented
George Merson, a Scottish pharmacist and manufacturer of surgical sutures, created an eyeless, needled suture with a single line of material attached by the butt end of the needle. As a result, tissue damage in patients was greatly decreased, as it eliminated the double-strand that was previously pulled through the skin.
Sterilization through irradiation is introduced
Merson’s company was acquired and absorbed by Johnson & Johnson in 1949, which renamed the newly-forged company Ethicon Suture Laboratories. This company, renamed Ethicon Inc. in 1950, introduced a technology that utilized radiation to sterilize sutures. This was a tremendous breakthrough in sterile sutures, as the process took place after the sutures had been sealed in their packaging.
Vicryl sutures are invented
The introduction of Vicryl, a synthetic suture created by Ethicon, was able to be naturally absorbed into the skin. It also featured a braided structure, giving it added pliability and strength.
Monocryl sutures hit the market
Monocryl, created specifically for skin, has high initial strength and provides the skin with a closing that is more secure, helping prevent infection and scarring that can occur when wound edges aren’t closed properly.
Antibacterial sutures are introduced
Coated Vicryl plus antibacterial sutures were the first version of antibacterial suture featuring triclosan, which protected the suture from bacteria. This significantly reduced infection risk in the surgical site by nearly one third.
The Stratafix Knotless Tissue Control Device is created
This type of suture addressed the tiresome, time-consuming requirement of suturing tissues together via knotting individual loops. Comparable to a zipper, it features multiple fixation points, eliminating the need to create knots (or “buttons”), and provides greater efficiency and strength than the traditional suture method.
- Dr. Nate Whittaker, MD Emergency Medicine Specialist