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Following injury, normal colon takes approximately 30 days to regain full breaking strength. This healing period can be lengthened by local infection. Colonic anastomoses are likely to be contaminated by intraluminal organisms, and suture material in such a situation is known to potentiate the development of sepsis. Experiments were designed to evaluate six suture materials used in colonic surgery to determine which retained adequate tensile strength and which excited least inflammatory response. The results indicate that absorbable sutures, with the exception of polydioxanone, lose strength too rapidly for use alone. Braided materials, notably silk, produce a prolonged tissue response and harbour bacteria. Monofilament materials are unreactive and appear least likely to delay healing. Polydioxanone, which is monofilament and absorbable, is recommended for use in the colon.