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BACKGROUND: Millions of women worldwide undergo perineal suturing after childbirth and the type of repair may have an impact on pain and healing. For more than 70 years, researchers have been suggesting that continuous non-locking suture techniques for repair of the vagina, perineal muscles and skin are associated with less perineal pain than traditional interrupted methods. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of continuous versus interrupted absorbable sutures for repair of episiotomy and second degree perineal tears following childbirth. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (June 2007). SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised trials comparing continuous versus interrupted sutures for repair of episiotomy and second-degree tears after vaginal delivery. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Three review authors independently assessed trial quality. Two of the three authors independently extracted data and a third author checked them. We contacted study authors for additional information. MAIN RESULTS: Seven studies, involving 3822 women at point of entry, from four countries, have been included. The trials were heterogeneous in respect of operator skill and training. Meta-analysis showed that continuous suture techniques compared with interrupted sutures for perineal closure (all layers or perineal skin only) are associated with less pain for up to 10 days postpartum (relative risk (RR) 0.70, 95% confidence interval 0.64 to 0.76). Subgroup analysis showed that there is a greater reduction in pain when continuous suturing techniques are used for all layers (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.71). There was an overall reduction in analgesia use associated with the continuous subcutaneous technique versus interrupted stitches for repair of perineal skin (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.84). Subgroup analysis showed some evidence of reduction in dyspareunia experienced by participants in the groups that had continuous suturing for all layers (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.98). There was also a reduction in suture removal in the continuous suturing groups versus interrupted (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.65), but no significant differences were seen in the need for re-suturing of wounds or long-term pain. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The continuous suturing techniques for perineal closure, compared to interrupted methods, are associated with less short-term pain. Moreover, if the continuous technique is used for all layers (vagina, perineal muscles and skin) compared to perineal skin only, the reduction in pain is even greater.

Original publication




Journal article


Cochrane Database Syst Rev

Publication Date



Delivery, Obstetric, Episiotomy, Female, Humans, Obstetric Labor Complications, Perineum, Pregnancy, Suture Techniques