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Surgical Sutures as a Means of Identifying Human Remains*


  • *

    This work was presented in poster format at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 18–23, 2008, in Washington, DC.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Katy L. Shepherd, B.S.
College of Professional Studies
Division of Justice Studies
10501 FGCU Blvd. South
Academic Building 3
Florida Gulf Coast University
Ft. Myers
FL 33965


Abstract:  The Food and Drug Administration does not require surgical sutures to be tracked by manufacturer, physician, or patient; thereby, surgical sutures have been of little use to forensic practitioners who are tasked with establishing a positive identification with biological evidence. This study demonstrates the investigative process used to pinpoint suture manufacturers by presenting a case where surgical sutures were a distinctive characteristic that aided in the positive identification of skeletal remains. The suture’s manufacturer, construction material and structure, size, and medical use was determined by contacting a local surgical suture and orthopedic implant manufacturer and utilizing publicly available manufacturer websites, which provide catalogs and specific product details. This research was one of many lines of evidence used to establish the positive identification of a 47-year-old male.