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I've struck upon these uses of the noun 'bite' in texts related to surgery:

This distance is marked on the sclera with the caliper, and 7-0 or 8-0 double-armed polyglactin suture is used to place 2 radial bites on either side of the mark. These bites should be about 1.5 mm long and 1.5 mm from each other. (at Emedicine)

and

Most corneal surgeons prefer deep partial-thickness corneal suture bites over full-thickness bites. Incorporating 95% of the donor’s and host’s relative corneal thickness avoids posterior wound gape. Full-thickness bites may be associated with a higher chance of leakage along suture tracks and serve as a portal of entry for microorganisms or epithelial ingrowth. (at Ophthalmic News Network)

and

Long scleral suture bites are recommended to reduce the risk of the sutures cheese-wiring out of the sclera when the sutures are tied. (Strabismus surgery)

Does this use of bite make it equal to the word stitch (a single pass of a needle; the resulting loop of the thread)? Or are there nuances of meaning differentiating the two words?

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2 Answers 2

It's referred to each thread of the stitch. It's a surgical term.

enter image description here

Recently, one research showed that ‘Small Bites’ drop rate of incisional hernias.

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Thanks, Maulik! I'm thinking of adding this sense to Wiktionary's entry on bite, hence my question, to make sure. –  CopperKettle Jul 19 at 9:28
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Sure...go ahead. :) But be careful if you are writing the definition. I expressed it the way I understand. –  Maulik V Jul 19 at 9:29
    
It occured to me that I was possibly wrong: a stitch may have a fragment that goes above the patient's tissue. This fragment is not part of the bite. The part of the stitch that travels through the tissue is the bite. Hence, a vertical mattress stitch has two bites: one is shallower, the other is deeper in the tissue, and two small fragments that go above, these are not part of the bites. "It was a hard thing to undo this knot" (c) At the first bite, at least. (0: –  CopperKettle Jul 19 at 12:48

I've read up some more, and it seems that bite is the penetration portion of a stitch, that is, the part of the stitch that goes through the tissue itself. The part of the stitch that goes above the patient's tissue is not a bite. Moreover, in surgery, the term suture is the preferred choice, not stitch, but the two seem to be interchangeable.

A long bite, of course, will result in a long stitch, but the terms are different. Consider the following quote:

A long stitch is the result of a large bite with the largest portion of fascia possible, aiming to increase tensile strength and to decrease the risk of fascial dehiscence. (Harlaal et al; BMC Surgery, 2011)

Take a look at the vertical mattress stitch:

enter image description here

This is how it is described in "Basic Surgical Techniques":

If the entry and exit holes are perpendicular to the edges, one bite is smaller than the other, this is a vertical or longitudinal mattress stitch.

Hence, each single stitch of this type comprises two bites, one lying a bit deeper in the tissue, the other lying above it, and two small portions on the surface.

And here is the horisontal mattress stitch:

enter image description here

Here's the schematic representation - the two dashed lines mark the two bites, the parts of the stitch that go under the skin:

enter image description here

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