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Open Access Research article

Tension of knotted surgical sutures shows tissue specific rapid loss in a rodent model

Christian D Klink1*, Marcel Binnebösel1, Hamid P Alizai1, Andreas Lambertz1, Klaus T vonTrotha1, Elmar Junker2, Catherine Disselhorst-Klug2, Ulf P Neumann1 and Uwe Klinge12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, RWTH Aachen, Germany

2 Applied Medical Engineering, Helmholtz Institute, RWTH Aachen, Germany

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BMC Surgery 2011, 11:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-11-36

Published: 21 December 2011



Every surgical suture compresses the enclosed tissue with a tension that depends from the knotting force and the resistance of the tissue. The aim of this study was to identify the dynamic change of applied suture tension with regard to the tissue specific cutting reaction.


In rabbits we placed single polypropylene sutures (3/0) in skin, muscle, liver, stomach and small intestine. Six measurements for each single organ were determined by tension sensors for 60 minutes. We collected tissue specimens to analyse the connective tissue stability by measuring the collagen/protein content.


We identified three phases in the process of suture loosening. The initial rapid loss of the first phase lasts only one minute. It can be regarded as cutting through damage of the tissue. The percentage of lost tension is closely related to the collagen content of the tissue (r = -0.424; p = 0.016). The second phase is characterized by a slower decrease of suture tension, reflecting a tissue specific plastic deformation. Phase 3 is characterized by a plateau representing the remaining structural stability of the tissue. The ratio of remaining tension to initial tension of phase 1 is closely related to the collagen content of the tissue (r = 0.392; p = 0.026).


Knotted non-elastic monofilament sutures rapidly loose tension. The initial phase of high tension may be narrowed by reduction of the surgeons' initial force of the sutures' elasticity to those of the tissue. Further studies have to confirm, whether reduced tissue compression and less local damage permits improved wound healing.

suture tension; cutting reaction; collagen; suture material; polypropylene; tension sensor