Surplus Suture Wanted

Aug 28, 2012

A Pittsburgh-based international medical relief agency is calling on hospitals to donate surgical suture kits to prevent surgical delays and deaths in countries including Malawi, Jamaica, and Bolivia. For the past 23 years, Global Links has provided medical materials for resource-poor countries, and while large amounts of suture have already been donated, there is still a need for more.

Hospitals in the United States, whether from a change in supply or from physician preference, often have a surplus of surgical suture. Global Links CEO Kathleen Hower says these supplies should be put to good use.

“Here in the U.S. it is almost impossible to imagine surgery being delayed over the lack of something as simple as a few strands of suture,” Hower said. “But in the countries we serve, that is very much the reality.”

Since its founding 23 years ago, Global Links has donated more than 1.2 million sutures to hospitals across the world. Hower wants that number to grow.

“Our goal is to expand this program nationally, because it’s such an important program, it’s such a simple thing, you can’t really perform surgery if you don’t have sutures,” Hower said.

In poor countries, post-partum hemorrhaging is the leading cause of death during childbirth and can kill a woman in two hours if hospitals don't have the appropriate suture kits.

Some surgeries cannot be delayed. In these instances Hower says in many parts of the world it is up to the patient to bring along some sort of  material to close their wounds.

“Without (sutures) for emergency room visits, people bring common items like thread or fishing line to be sewn up, and that can cause other kinds of problems including infection,” Hower said.

Global Links accepts sterile sutures that are at least one year away from expiration.