WARC Journal Club: STITCH Trial

Deerenberg EB, Harlaar JJ, Steyerberg EW, et al. Small bites versus large bites for closure of abdominal midline incisions (STITCH): a double-blind, multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2015 Sep 26;386(10000):1254-1260.

Full-text for Emory users.

FINDINGS: Between Oct 20, 2009, and March 12, 2012, we randomly assigned 560 patients to the large bites group (n=284) or the small bites group (n=276). Follow-up ended on Aug 30, 2013; 545 (97%) patients completed follow-up and were included in the primary outcome analysis. Patients in the small bites group had fascial closures sutured with more stitches than those in the large bites group (mean number of stitches 45 [SD 12] vs 25 [10]; p<0·0001), a higher ratio of suture length to wound length (5·0 [1·5] vs 4·3 [1·4]; p<0·0001) and a longer closure time (14 [6] vs 10 [4] min; p<0·0001). At 1 year follow-up, 57 (21%) of 277 patients in the large bites group and 35 (13%) of 268 patients in the small bites group had incisional hernia (p=0·0220, covariate adjusted odds ratio 0·52, 95% CI 0·31-0·87; p=0·0131). Rates of adverse events did not differ significantly between groups.

INTERPRETATION: Our findings show that the small bites suture technique is more effective than the traditional large bites technique for prevention of incisional hernia in midline incisions and is not associated with a higher rate of adverse events. The small bites technique should become the standard closure technique for midline incisions.


Millbourn D, Cengiz Y, Israelsson LA. Effect of stitch length on wound complications after closure of midline incisions: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Surg. 2009 Nov;144(11): 1056-9.

Full-text for Emory users.

RESULTS: In all, 737 patients were randomized: 381 were allocated to a long stitch length and 356, to a short stitch length. Wound dehiscence occurred in 1 patient whose wound was closed with a long stitch length. Surgical site infection occurred in 35 of 343 patients (10.2%) in the long stitch group and in 17 of 326 (5.2%) in the short stitch group (P = .02). Incisional hernia was present in 49 of 272 patients (18.0%) in the long stitch group and in 14 of 250 (5.6%) in the short stitch group (P < .001). In multivariate analysis, a long stitch length was an independent risk factor for both surgical site infection and incisional hernia.

CONCLUSION: In midline incisions closed with a running suture and having a suture length to wound length ratio of at least 4, current recommendations of placing stitches at least 10 mm from the wound edge should be changed to avoid patient suffering and costly wound complications.


Israelsson LA, Jonsson T. Suture length to wound length ratio and healing of midline laparotomy incisions. Br J Surg. 1993 Oct;80(10):1284-6.

Full-text for Emory users.

“The effect of suture length to wound length ratio on the healing of midline laparotomy wounds closed with a continuous suture was evaluated in a prospective clinical trial. All patients undergoing abdominal procedures through a midline incision were included except those with an incisional hernia after previous midline operation. The total incidence of wound infection was 36 of 454 patients (7.9 per cent) and wound dehiscence requiring reoperation occurred in three patients (0.7 per cent). Incisional hernia was found in 18.7 per cent of 363 patients alive 12 months after surgery. Multivariate analysis identified the suture length to wound length ratio, age and major wound infection as independent risk factors for the development of hernia, which occurred in 9.0 per cent of patients when the suture length to wound length ratio was > or = 4 and in 23.7 per cent (P = 0.001) when it was < 4. The suture length to wound length ratio is an important parameter for healing of midline incisions closed with a continuous suture technique. The incidence of incisional hernia is lower when such wounds are sutured with a ratio > or = 4.”

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