Ethicon's History of Catgut Suture, Before There was Transvaginal Mesh

Jane Akre
January 17, 2017

Ethicon infirmary, 1970

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, January 17, 2017 ~ Long before there was transvaginal mesh made by Johnson & Johnson, the company made suture material, known as "catgut" because it was manufactured from the submucosal layer of the small intestines of a sheep. The origin of "catgut" may be lost in medical obscurity.

Before there was professional public relations, Ethicon used animals to poke fun of doctors and surgical procedures, an attempt at humor lost today on those injured by its products.

In 1970 Ethicon LTD., of Edinburgh, Scotland, produced this book called Ethicon infirmary about the origin of the name "catgut", another name for suture material.

These were the days before the profession of public relations and PR was sort of casual and fun-loving.

Ethicon, Inc. is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, incorporated in 1949 according to Wikipedia, to expand the product line.

Ethicon booklet, 1970

It began with surgical sutures, cotton and gauze and wound closing devices in 1887. After World War II the sale of surgical suture rose dramatically from 15% to 70% worldwide.

The Edinburgh facility was opened in 1915 to manufacture and sell catgut, silk and nylon sutures. By 1947, facility founder George F. Merson sold his company to Johnson & Johnson and it was renamed in 1953 Ethicon Suture Laboratories.

Sutures were one of the first products of Ethicon and are classified according to their material origin, in this case catgut was manufactured from a layer of the small intestines of sheep. Ethicon’s hired noted animal photographer Walter Chandoha to take pictures for this booklet series, “Cat-a-log”.

It was determined that synthetic sutures were more consistent in their appearance and performance and it was thought that synthetic sutures were more biocompatible, so the companies steered toward the synthetics.

By 1969 PROLENE® Propylene Suture became the “gold standard” for cardiac bypass surgery and eventually would become the material eventually used to make hernia mesh then transvaginal mesh. Coated VICRYL® was introduced in 1974 for use in general surgery.

By 1992, Ethicon was restructured and Ethicon Endo-Surgery became a separate company. It made VYPRO ® and ULTRAPRO® partially absorbable lightweight mesh for hernia repair. They would be followed by PROCEED® surgical mesh for ventral hernia repair.

By May 2013, the companies consolidated again and rebranded to form Ethicon Endo-Surgery to merge its surgical sutures and wound closure devices with medical devices and surgical instruments specializing in minimally-invasive surgery.

Along with a sales for of about 600 reps. There was a new brand promise “Better surgery for a better world.”

The three pillars of the promise are: Continued innovation and delivery of market-appropriate products, improved access to care globally, and good works by employees and the company.

J&J's Ethicon Rebranded, 2013


Ethicon oversees the Gynecare line which includes transvaginal meshes including Gynecare Prolift, Prolift M+ Prosima, Gynemesh, Prolene Mesh, Polypropylene mesh patch, TVT Sling, TVT Secur

January 24, 2017 at 8:30 am EST J&J will discuss its 4Q earnings in a call and Webcast.

You can listen to the webcast here.

J&J 4Q SEC Filing Dec 2016- See Note 11 Legal Proceedings

Jump to Comments

Downloads for this Article:

Also in this Section:

More articles coming soon...

Categories for this Page

More categories coming soon...
No items found.

Related to this Article:

More articles coming soon...