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Salt Water Better Than Soap For Cleaning Wounds: Study

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Cleaning wounds is an intricate process that must be performed using correct techniques. While washing with soap and water is the common practice, a new study found that using salt water results in much better outcomes. The findings of the research may pave the way for more cost-effective ways of washing wounds in developing countries.

Correct wound washing entails irrigation (washing) and debridement (medical removal of potentially infectious contaminants and debris). The correct solution and the appropriate amount of pressure to be exerted while washing wounds remain unclear, but despite the issue, medical practice has not changed.

For a new study, the researchers investigated the effects of castile soap versus normal saline solution (salt water) in surgical patients who suffered from open fractures. The researchers also delved into the impacts of using very low, low or high pressure irrigation.

A total of 2,447 participants with open fractures in their arm or leg were enrolled in the study. They were instructed to clean their wound with either soap and water or salt water solution, using the three levels of irrigation pressure.

The goal of the study is to determine who among the group of subjects will need to have a reoperation due to surgical wound site infection or other wound healing issues after 12 months.

The findings of the study showed that the best level of pressure is very low, meaning best results may be achieved via the cost-effective choice. Ultimately, the researchers found that the rate of reoperation was higher among patients who used soap and water in washing their wound.

"These findings may have important implications for the care of patients with open fractures worldwide since developing countries deal with a disproportionate number of cases,'' said co-author Dr. Edward Harvey from McGill University. He added that this corrects the common notion that using high pressure irrigation and soap and water is the right way. The findings show that the cheaper option is the better option.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Photo: Arlington County | Flickr

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