An in-vitro study of the effect of buffer on the degradation of poly(glycolic acid) sutures.
The tensile strengths of poly(glycolic acid) (PGA) sutures immersed in buffered and unbuffered aqueous media were compared. The media used were an unbuffered physiological saline solution (pH = 5.0) and a phosphate-buffered physiological saline solution (pH = 7.4). PGA samples were immersed for various periods in each medium, and kept at 37 +/- 1 degree C in a constant temperature oven. The tensile strengths of the specimens were tested immediately after removal from the medium. Stress-strain curves of the specimens were expressed in terms of the stress unit "tenacity," commonly used in the study of fibrous polymers; it is an appropriate unit for materials of fibrous nature. These stress-strain curves were investigated as functions of buffering and duration of immersion. Degradation reduced the tensile strength of PGA more in the buffered saline solution than in the unbuffered. This higher rate of degradation in the buffered solution might be due to the presence of Na2HPO4, which removed the degradation products, shifted the reaction toward increased hydrolosis, and accelerated the loss of tensile strength in the PGA. A continuous decrease in the pH of the unbuffered solution supports this explanation. Tied-chain segments of macromolecules, a theory widely used in the study of mechanical strength of fibrous polymer may be the key to a comprehensive description of the degradation phenomenon of PGA.