Like most households, your medicine cabinet probably contains a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which you use to clean minor nicks and cuts. However, the results of a study published in the latest issue of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, clearly state that hydrogen peroxide must not be used to clean absorbable sutures, also known as absorbable stitches.
American researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that hydrogen peroxide causes absorbable sutures to disintegrate prematurely. Stitches are meant to maintain tension on the skin while the wound heals. Contrary to traditional non-absorbable sutures which must be manually removed, absorbable sutures actually breakdown on their own after a few days.
Threads used for stitches were submitted to laboratory testing to determine how they were affected by hydrogen peroxide and distilled water. Researchers used fifteen samples of sutures in this experiment, five of which were used as a control group and remained untouched. For a period of five days, they submerged five samples of traditional sutures and five samples of absorbable sutures in hydrogen peroxide and distilled water for five minutes twice a day. According to researchers, this recreates the scenario of a patient cleaning his or her stitches. After five days, they wanted to measure the strength of the sutures by using a strength testing device that pulled on them until they broke.
Traditional sutures were entirely unaffected by both peroxide and distilled water and scientists noted no difference in their tensile strength, compared to the sutures from the control group. However, the group of absorbable sutures was so severely damaged, that the samples disintegrated before scientists could submit them to the strength testing stage of the experiment. One of the samples even completely disintegrated before being manipulated.
These researchers consider it is very important for patients to be informed of this reaction by the healthcare professionals who teach them how to care for their stitches. In fact, hydrogen peroxide clearly accelerates the disintegration of absorbable sutures, which diminishes and even cancels their role. If the sutures give out too early, the wound will open and widen, taking much longer to heal. This will inevitably lead to a larger scar or perhaps to a hypertrophic scar (red and raised lumps), and it will not be esthetically pleasing.
Hydrogen peroxide is a solution that can be safely used to clean superficial injuries, and many people really like how it foams-up when it is poured onto a wound. You should also know that hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic and antibacterial agent that only serves to clean a wound, as it has absolutely no disinfecting properties.
If you must have stitches one day, be they absorbable or non-absorbable, simply clean them with either a saline solution or soap and water!