How Did We Get Here? The History of Sutures

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.


  • 1876

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.


  • 1920s

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.


  • 1960

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.


  • 1974

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.


  • 1993

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.


  • 2003

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.


  • 2012

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.

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  • Dr. Nate Whittaker, MD Emergency Medicine Specialist
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