Saline solution cleans wounds more effectively than soap and water according to a new study looking at infection rates among open fracture patients.
Throughout the years, patient care has evolved tremendously. However, one thing that’s left largely unchanged is wound cleaning. A joint research team comprising scientists from the McMaster University and the McGill University Health Center Research Institute looked at wound cleaning practices and how they affect patients with open fractures.
Typically, cleaning an open fracture wound before surgery requires just soap and water. The exception to the rule is constituted by the use of a saline solution. The study findings suggest that the saline solution cleans wounds more effectively than soap and water. The latter wound cleaning practice has become obsolete. Yet, it is still quite common, particularly in developing nations.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study compiled medical data on 2,400 patients with open fractures either at the leg or at the arm level. The participants were assigned one of the two wound cleaning practices. For those who were assigned the cleaning with soap and water, the researchers also took into consideration the pressure of the water flow.
Following surgery, all participants were sent home. Nonetheless, post-surgery, the 2,400 open fracture patients were monitored. The research team looked specifically at the rate of infections post-surgery, issues with the surgery wounds healing and the need for an additional surgery due to any of these problems.
The findings of the study suggest that using water alone to clean an open wound leads to serious infections post-surgery. Surprisingly, even when soap was added to water, the results did not change. Particularly if water pressure throughout the procedure was very low or low. Moreover, for the group of open fracture patients who were assigned soap and water as a wound cleaning practice, the number of second surgeries needed was higher than in the saline solution group.
According to study co-author Doctor Edward Harvey, the chief of Orthopaedic Trauma with the McGill University Health Center, open fractures are very common in developing nations. The findings of the study could help health practitioners here develop better wound cleaning practices and set soap and water aside.
According to Doctor Harvey, the cheapest or most cost-effective practice is also the safest one. And that is, using saline solution for cleaning wounds, particularly in the case of open fractures.
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