Absorbable Stitches, Hydrogen Peroxide a Bad Mix

TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The type of antiseptic health care staff use to clean absorbable sutures or stitches -- which break down naturally in the body over time -- could harm the stitches' integrity, a new study warns.

Specifically, using hydrogen peroxide to clean these stitches causes them to lose their tensile strength, say researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The study looked at different samples of absorbable and nonabsorbable sutures. Over five days -- meant to simulate a typical wound-care regimen -- the sutures were dipped in either hydrogen peroxide or distilled water for five minutes twice a day.

At the end of five days, the sutures were subjected to strength testing. Nonabsorbable sutures were not affected by the water or hydrogen peroxide, and water had no effect on absorbable sutures.

However, absorbable sutures dipped in hydrogen peroxide fell apart as soon as they were handled. The study was published in the July/August issue of the journal Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.

"Hydrogen peroxide has been used as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent for many years. I think people are enamored of it, because it foams up when put on a cut or scab," study senior author Dr. Joseph Leach, associate professor of otolaryngology, said in a prepared statement.

"While hydrogen peroxide is good for cleaning scabs, this study shows that it's not the best choice for sterilizing wounds closed with absorbable sutures," Leach said.

More information

The University of Illinois Medical Center has more about sutures.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, news release, July 31, 2007

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