A dry absorbable synthetic surgical element of a polymer subject to hydrolytic degradation to non-toxic, tissue-compatible, absorbable components, such as a polyglycolic acid suture, is package in an air-tight sealed container which is substantially impervious to water vapor such as a laminate film having a metallic foil layer. The gaseous contents of the envelope are, prior to sealing the suture within the envelope, either evacuated or replaced with a gas which is inert towards said surgical element and which is substantially free from water. The water content should be below 0.5 percent by weight of the weight of the surgical element, and preferably is below 0.05 percent by weight. Polyglycolic acid sutures and other elements thus packaged retain acceptable levels of strength for at least one year at storage temperatures of 72.degree.F. and ambient humidity outside the package. The contents may be sterilized by using ethylene oxide.