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)


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)


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?


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.

  • Thanks, Maulik! I'm thinking of adding this sense to Wiktionary's entry on bite, hence my question, to make sure. Jul 19 '14 at 9:28
  • 1
    Sure...go ahead. :) But be careful if you are writing the definition. I expressed it the way I understand.
    – Maulik V
    Jul 19 '14 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: Jul 19 '14 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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