How long after surgery until eyelid stitches dissolve?

Does it usually take longer than a week for stitches to dissolve after eyelid surgery? I’m just over a week now and they are still there. I thought I remember my doctor saying it could take up to 10 days. Does that sound right?


M, 42, New York

Tags:woman age 35-44 upper eyelids 1 week post-op recovery

Absorbable sutures are frequently used after upper eyelid and lower eyelid surgery. There are many different types of dissolvable stitches surgeons can choose from, each lasting varying time periods and of differing thicknesses. The most commonly used sutures in cosmetic eyelid surgery are known as 'fast absorbing gut sutures', and normally dissolve within 7-10 days. These dissolvable sutures are often used in areas where tension has been relieved by additional non-dissolving sutures under the skin's surface that may need to be removed later by your surgeon.

Eyelids generally heal quickly and many patients only require absorbable stitches for a week on their upper eyelid crease or lower eyelid skin. After this period they generally begin to lose their structural integrity and break down on their own. Some surgeons may choose to remove absorbable stitches after this period if they have not been absorbed as they can irritate the skin, leave small tracks marks on the sides of the incision, and cause a thicker scar.

However, it’s equally important not to remove eyelid stitches too quickly as the incision site may not be properly healed and the skin weak. While it may look like nothing is happening, the body digests the suture material underneath the skin before the exposed part of the suture thread begins to break down.  

Only your surgeon knows the details of your surgery and what is best for you, so if you feel concerned about your stitches, seek advice from him or her. They will remove the stitches once they’re confident they are no longer necessary. Do not try to remove stitches yourself at home; any removal of eyelid sutures should take place in your surgeon's office. You can, however, assist the healing process. Keeping the incision site moisturized with an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly helps to speed up your recovery and prevent the incision from scabbing or drying out.

That's a very common question and an understandable one. Nobody wants to walk around with visible sutures.

Yes, it can take more than a week for your sutures to disappear. The exact amount of time it takes dissolvable stitches to dissolve after plastic surgery depends on the type of suture material which was used. Some varieties of absorbable stitches dissolve in just 3 or 4 days while others may take as long as eight weeks. Your plastic surgeon will decide which type of suture thread to use based on the type of procedure or wound closure in any specific case.

If your dissolvable sutures are causing discomfort or presenting some other immediate issues, you can discuss the possibility of suture removal with your plastic surgeon. In the event that your plastic surgeon agrees that the sutures can be removed prior to completely dissolving, he or she can easily remove them during a brief follow-up visit.

The removal process is a quick procedure. The wound area is cleaned and sterilized with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. The thread is held with forceps and snipped using either a scalpel or surgical scissors.

Remember, it's generally a bad idea to attempt home removal of sutures. In most normal cases, dissolvable stitches shouldn't need to be physically removed. Dissolving sutures should be allowed to come out by themselves, and non-dissolving suture removal should only be performed by a healthcare professional after the healing process is complete.

After eyelid surgery, the surgical incisions will typically be invisible or nearly invisible after healing. You should expect them to look very noticeable for six to eight weeks, after which they should begin to fade dramatically.

Remember to follow your doctor's wound care instructions. Practicing daily wound care during the first two weeks by gently washing with warm water and mild soap will help speed recovery. After any surgery it's best to do only light physical activity until your doctor says otherwise. 
Applying antibiotic ointment regularly and avoiding direct sunlight as much as possible should also help minimize scar formation.

If you experience increasing pain, inflammation, high fever, or notice red streaks leading away from the incision, you should seek medical attention immediately. These may be signs of a serious infection which can be a medical emergency.

Having sutures is uncomfortable, so it's natural to be impatient with the rate at which absorbable sutures are absorbed or come out. Our bodies' immune system naturally treats sutures like an invading foreign object, and respond to their presence with a normal inflammatory response which contributes to stitch dissolution.

Without knowing the specifics of your eyelid surgery, it's not possible to know exactly how fast your sutures will disappear. Also, bear in mind that every person is different. The time it takes for stitches to disappear is different for every person, and varies based on factors like caring for stitches, application of antibiotic ointment, and other factors.

There isn't just one type of absorbable suture material. Different types of absorbable suture thread dissolve at a different rates. The original absorbable sutures were made from natural materials like catgut, collagen, and sheep intestines, while more modern varieties are made from synthetic materials like polyglycolic acid and polylactic acid. Some suture materials are made from a single filament while other, stronger varieties are braided. In some cases, surgeons will use a combination of sutures and skin glue to ensure a better healing process. In some instances, non-dissolvable stitches are preferable, while in others, a rapidly dissolving suture material is the better choice.

The choice of which type of suture material to use is made by your plastic surgeon, and is based upon your specific plastic surgery procedure.

To answer your question: The type of absorbable sutures used most often in eyelid surgery should generally dissolve or fall out after seven to 14 days, which is the optimal time for the incision to close. If you're just over the one week mark now, my guess would be that your stitches should be coming out any day now. But without any specific information about your surgery I cannot give you any direct medical advice.

If you experience increasing pain or fever, this may be an indication of wound infection and you should seek the advice of your doctor at once.

Remember to always visit a board-certified plastic surgeon for best results.

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There are many different kinds of absorbable sutures, and each type dissolves at different rates. Plastic surgeons generally use stitches that dissolve at the five to 10 day mark, but for minor injuries there are varieties that break down in as little as three days. Other types can take weeks.

The decision to choose either faster-dissolving or longer-lasting sutures (or nonabsorbable sutures) depends on the location, nature, and healing time of your specific procedure and on the judgement of your plastic surgeon. Fast-dissolving skin sutures have a lower chance of leaving stitch marks on the scar, but may not result in a healing process as effective as with sutures that last longer.

I can't give you any direct medical advice or any advice specific to your surgical procedure -- but for minor surgeries like an eyelid surgery, using sutures that last nine to 10 days is very common.

Keep in mind though that the sutures beneath the surface of the skin usually start to dissolve before any visible sutures disappear. So it's possible that the sutures beneath the skin have already been absorbed and it only looks as they haven't started dissolving yet.

If your sutures haven't dissolved by the 10 day mark and are causing you discomfort, I suggest you contact your plastic surgeon. At his or her discretion, it may be possible to remove them before they disappear on their own. Keep in mind however, suture removal should not be attempted too soon or the scarring may become significantly worse.

To ensure faster healing, many people apply antibiotic ointment or vitamin E cream to the incisions. In most cases this is a good idea, but you should consult with your physician when applying any ointments or creams near your eyes.

There is a wide variety of dissolvable sutures used in plastic surgery that break down at different times. Some begin to dissolve after 3 to 5 days, while others can take weeks. When performing eye lifts or blepharoplasty surgery, surgeons most commonly use dissolvable stitches that break down after 5 to 10 days.

Surgeons try to find a balance between using stitches that dissolve quickly and stitches that last longer -- those that dissolve quickly tend to be less likely to leave stitch marks, while those that last longer help the incision to heal well and encourage the skin to become strong.

It sounds as if your surgeon used fast absorbing stitches to suture your eyelid incisions. On average, you can expect these stitches to take eight or nine days to dissolve as it takes time for the body to break down the proteins in the suture. Some plastic surgeons use a different, stronger type of suture on the inner part of the lower eyelid that takes longer to break down.

The dissolution begins in the areas beneath the skin before the externally apparent part of the stitch begins to break down as well. This means that while it may appear that nothing is happening and the stitches are not dissolving, they may be sitting on top of your skin yet no longer connected beneath the skin.

I would recommend waiting at least ten days following surgery to give the sutures adequate time to dissolve. If they are still visible after this and bothering you, contact your surgeon. He or she may be able to remove them, or advise you if they intend for them to be left in for a longer period of time. However, most surgeons remove external sutures after ten days to avoid scarring. Some plastic surgeons also recommend that their patients rub an approved antibiotic ointment along the incision line to help the sutures dissolve more rapidly.