Journal Articles

Cleansing of acute traumatic wounds: tap water or normal saline?

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Cleansing of acute traumatic wounds: tap water or normal saline?

Helen Douglas, Lynn Cornish
9 November 2016

Acute traumatic wounds are considered contaminated and therefore require cleansing to remove any foreign material, reduce the risk of infection and facilitate an optimum healing environment. Normal saline has traditionally been the solution of choice for wound cleansing, because it is isotonic, relatively inexpensive and readily available. Several recent trials report that tap water (TW) of drinkable quality is as safe and effective as normal saline for the cleansing of acute traumatic wounds, with two trials reporting lower infection rates in the TW groups versus the normal saline groups. These results support wound cleansing with TW, which could be initiated at an early stage in the patient journey, and allow consistent, safe and cost-effective wound cleansing in a busy emergency department.

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