Understanding Catgut Absorbable and Chromic Catgut: A Comprehensive Guide

DSI Chromic Catgut Sutures | Discover Dental Products & Solutions


Surgical sutures have played a crucial role in the field of medicine for centuries, contributing to the healing and closure of wounds after various medical procedures. Among the diverse materials used for sutures, catgut absorbable and chromic catgut stand out for their unique characteristics. 

Historical Perspective: The Roots of Catgut

Catgut, despite its name, is not derived from cat intestines. The term “catgut” is a historical misnomer and is derived from the word “kitgut,” where “kit” refers to fiddle strings. Originally, catgut was made from the intestines of sheep, goats, and occasionally cattle. The use of catgut as a suture material dates back to ancient times, with references found in medical manuscripts from as early as the 4th century BC. The natural absorption properties of catgut made it an attractive option for early surgeons, eliminating the need for suture removal and reducing the risk of infection.

Catgut Absorbable: The Basics

Catgut absorbable is a type of suture material that is derived from the submucosal layer of the small intestine in sheep or other animals. The purification process removes impurities and fatty tissues, leaving behind collagen fibers. These collagen fibers provide catgut absorbability with their tensile strength and flexibility. One of the primary advantages of catgut absorbable is its ability to be absorbed by the body’s natural processes. Over time, the catgut undergoes enzymatic digestion, breaking down into simpler components that are absorbed by the body. 

Chromic Catgut: Adding a Twist to Absorbable Sutures

Chromic catgut is a variant of catgut absorbable that undergoes an additional treatment process known as chromicization. This process involves treating the catgut with chromic acid salts, imparting a brownish color to the suture material. Chromic catgut is renowned for its enhanced resistance to enzymatic digestion, leading to a slower absorption rate compared to regular catgut. The chromicization process also provides chromic catgut with increased tensile strength and prolonged suture retention. This makes it suitable for use in areas where a more extended period of wound support is required, such as in deep tissues or when the healing process is anticipated to be slower.

Applications of Catgut Absorbable and Chromic Catgut

Both catgut absorbable and chromic catgut find extensive applications across various surgical disciplines. 

General Surgery:

Catgut absorbable is often employed in general surgical procedures where rapid healing and absorption are desired. Chromic catgut may be used for deep tissue closures and in cases where longer duration of suture support is required.

Obstetrics and Gynecology:

Catgut absorbable is commonly used in obstetric and gynecological surgeries, including episiotomies and uterine closures. The absorbable nature of catgut reduces the risk of infection and minimizes discomfort during the healing process.

Ophthalmic Surgery:

The fine and pliable nature of catgut absorbance makes it suitable for delicate procedures such as eye surgery. The absence of suture removal in these cases simplifies postoperative care.

Orthopedic Surgery:

Chromic catgut, with its prolonged absorption period, is employed in orthopedic surgeries where extended support for wound closure and healing is crucial.

Dental Surgery:

Catgut absorbable may be used in dental surgeries, providing a reliable and absorbable option for suturing oral tissues.

Advantages and Considerations

Both catgut absorbable and chromic catgut offer unique advantages in the realm of surgical sutures

Absorbable Nature:

The natural absorption of catgut eliminates the need for suture removal, reducing patient discomfort and the risk of complications associated with the removal process.


Catgut absorbable is versatile and suitable for a wide range of surgical procedures, while chromic catgut adds versatility with its enhanced strength and slower absorption rate.


Catgut is derived from natural collagen, making it biocompatible and reducing the risk of adverse reactions.


Catgut absorbable and chromic catgut remain integral components of the surgical toolbox, embodying a legacy that spans centuries. Their unique properties, including absorbability, versatility, and biocompatibility, make them valuable options in various surgical settings. As medical technology advances, these traditional materials continue to adapt and find their place alongside modern synthetic sutures, contributing to the diverse array of options available to surgeons worldwide. Understanding the origins, properties, and applications of catgut absorbable and chromic catgut allows healthcare professionals to make informed choices, ensuring optimal outcomes for their patients.


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