Wounds come in many forms. Lacerations, burns, necrotic areas and punctures are all wounds that require care if a patient is to be expected to recover fully. Throughout history, wound care has been undertaken with the help of chemicals and materials that fight infection, fuse skin, and protect delicate internal tissues.
Here are some of the most important chemicals and materials used to treat wounds. This is by no means an exhaustive list – new uses of materials and chemicals are always being trialed:
Silver is an antifungal and antibacterial element. Although expensive, it is extremely useful in wound care situations where the patient has poor blood flow. Poor blood flow often stops the body from being able to send its own antifungal and antibacterial defenses to an area.
Dressings imbued with silver react when they come into contact with an infected or fungal area, releasing tiny amounts of the metal element to combat threats.
Iodine is commonly used in debridement and disinfectant during wound care. It is an effective antipathogenic and antiseptic agent. Its use in the past was limited by the fact that it can cause irritation to the area of the wound, potentially preventing proper healing. More recently, interest in Iodine has been revitalized. It has been shown that the chemical can actually provoke quicker healing in some cases because it jumpstarts complex bodily processes that influence the generation of cells.
Alcohol has been used in medicine since the dawn of history. The ancient Chinese prescribed alcohol treatments for a number of ailments. In wound care, alcohol in its purest ethanol form is extremely useful for sterilizing areas in danger of being infected before they are dressed.
There is, however, a catch. Alcohol can aggravate sensitive areas and prohibit healing if used too liberally. Other forms of less invasive disinfectant have been developed in an effort to counter this.
Silicone has myriad uses in medicine and is especially useful in wound care. Silicone coating is often used as an artificial skin emulation barrier in dressings. It can be applied using dressings made up of multiple perforated layers, which replicate the porous and yet protective nature of natural skin.
Silicone dressings are in widespread use due to their versatility and their high level of success replicating the protective qualities of skin.
Collagen is a material made out of the intestines of animals. The significance of this material in wound care is huge. Because collagen is both organic (from an animal) and strong, it can be used to produce stitches that successfully close wounds while being metabolized by the human body.
This has enabled the development of dissolvable sutures. Dissolving sutures are metabolized by the enzymes present in the body and bypass the need for invasive stitch removal. As well as negating a painful process, this gives a wound more of a chance to heal, as stitch removal can disturb tissue that is still in the process of fusing.