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December 21, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: Super Glue Surgery


Anahad O'Connor's "Really?" column in the December 4, 2007 New York Times Science section addressed the topic; the piece follows.

    The Claim: Super Glue Can Heal Wounds

    The Facts: Call it the secret life of Super Glue.

    During the Vietnam War, emergency medics began using the all-purpose glue to seal battle wounds in troops headed for surgery. The glue was so good at stemming bleeding that it was credited with saving many lives.

    Nowadays, professional athletes often close small cuts with Super Glue or similar products to get back in the game in a hurry. The glues are also used by veterinarians, and many people keep a tube around the house to help them out of a medical pinch. It is believed that the glues — made from the chemical cyanoacrylate — not only stop bleeding quickly, but also lead to less scarring.

    So should you keep some Super Glue in the medicine cabinet? Probably not, experts say. Studies show that although the glue can be useful in emergencies, it can also irritate the skin, kill cells and cause other side effects, particularly when used on deep wounds.

    There is a safer alternative. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration approved a similar, antibacterial form of the substance called 2-octyl-cyanoacrylate, which is marketed as Dermabond.

    The Bottom Line: Using ordinary Super Glue on wounds can cause side effects, but a safer alternative exists.


I've touched on this topic previously in an August 1, 2006 post.

Long story short: I still believe what I wrote then, namely that Super Glue is the way to go for superficial cuts — when used correctly.

O'Connor's spot on when he points out it's not a good idea to pour the stuff into a deep wound but otherwise I would — and do — go right ahead and use it.

Make certain to first irrigate the wound copiously under running water — it is impossible to overstate the importance and efficacy of this simple maneuver, far more effective in minimizing the chance of infection than applying anything — hydrogen peroxide, what have you — to the injury.

Make sure the wound is completely dry — or as dry as it's possible to make it — before applying the glue.

I've found that after closing a cut with Super Glue, for the next two or three days the wound area aches below the closed skin, even though there's no evidence of infection.

This may the body's way of saying, "Don't mess with Mother Nature."

Oh, yeah, one last thing: a single-use tube of Dermabond is hard to acquire, expires about six months after you buy it and costs $23.95.

A multi-use tube of Super Glue is available 24/7/365 in every convenience store, pharmacy and grocery, lasts forever and costs $1.99.

Here's a link to an informative article about how to achieve the best results using Dermabond (or Super Glue).

December 21, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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What about that BandAid "Liquid Bandage" stuff? I've seen it in the stores but never actually tried it. Same diff?

Posted by: Rob O. | Dec 22, 2007 10:37:43 AM

From what I understand -- it is EXACTLY the same chemical makeup. The liquid pretty much is sterile because of its formulation and what COULD make it less sterile means it would solidify anyways. At least this is how it was explained to me...

Pretty much, anything that is FDA approved as a drug needs to be 100X the cost so someone can make a profit. I'll pick superglue any day of the week.

Posted by: clifyt | Dec 21, 2007 5:13:57 PM

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