Silver nitrate is an inorganic compound discovered in the 13th century by Albertus Magnus and has since been used in the medical industry for various issues, including wound care. As silver salts have antiseptic properties, they have been used as a treatment for gonorrhea prevention, a cauterizing agent, for the healing of oral ulcers, among others. However, the most common use of silver nitrate in the medicinal world is for the removal of dead, infected, or dying tissue on wounds.
So, what is Silver Nitrate Used for Wounds?
Silver nitrate stick is used as an antimicrobial therapy which has many anti-inflammatory properties and healing characteristics. It is a chemical cauterizing agent used to remove excess granulation tissue usually found around stomas (usually in cases of gastrotomy and tracheotomy stomas), to remove necrotic tissue from an infected or a nonhealing wound, to remove warts and other blemishes, and to treat oral ulcers and nosebleeds. In the right concentration, silver can control the amounts of yeast, bacteria, and mold, as it kills microbes, and relieves the burden of bacteria on the wounded area.
Silver nitrate can destroy microbes such as methicillin and many others, and therefore is quite successful in the treatment of acute wounds, chronic wounds, and various burns. It helps with the reduction of the wound size, thus being able to prevent the need for surgery in some patients.
Since silver nitrate is highly caustic, precautions should be taken before the usage. You should be careful not to let it ooze on the healthy parts of skin as it can stain and burn it. If it does happen to leak on the healthy skin, you should immediately irrigate the site with a lot of sterile water. Additionally, you should wear eye protection when treating nosebleeds and tracheostomy stomas as the breathing of the patient may cause the agent to splatter. One more thing you should think about is the pain. Using silver nitrate can cause pain, therefore, using a topical anesthetic or a painkiller beforehand could help a lot.
How to Use Silver Nitrate for Wound Care?
To successfully use silver nitrate for the treatment of wounds, you need some equipment. First of all, you would need clean wound dressings, nitrile gloves, and saline solution. Naturally, you require the silver nitrate pencils or sticks, Vaseline (or petroleum jelly) to protect the surrounding skin, and a topical anesthetic to soothe the pain.
The procedure of treating the wound is quite simple if done right. First of all, you need to carefully read the instructions on the packet and take all the precautions necessary. Apply a topical anesthetic to soothe the pain and clean the wound bed with the saline solution before the debridement. Dry the area with a sterile dressing and apply the skin barrier to the surrounding skin to protect it from leakage, skin staining, and tissue burns.
Instead of vinyl gloves, put on nitrile gloves. Vinyl gloves do not protect the hands from burn or staining, so nitrile is definitely a better solution here. Moist the tip of the silver nitrate stick with a drop of saline and apply it to the wound gently. If the wound is already moist, you do not need to wet the stick, as the wetness of the wound will be enough to activate the stick on its own. Roll the stick around the wound and be careful not to touch the healthy skin.
If used for cauterizing, you may need to apply light pressure during the process. Stop the procedure is the burning sensation is too uncomfortable for the patient. Always remove all the dead tissue to prevent the growth of bacteria. Clean the wound with saline solution and treat it with topical antibiotics if necessary. Always make sure to use a clean dressing and a clean bandage to dress the wound.
You should be careful and check the appearance of the wound. The reason for this is that silver can burn the tissue and stain it gray, however, this is completely normal. What may happen is that the wound can look even worse at the next dressing change, but the gray tissue will come off when you wipe it with a gauze moistened with saline solution. Keep a record of the wound state and make sure to follow-up with your doctor as needed.
Where to Getting Silver Nitrate?
Silver nitrate sticks can be purchased as an over-the-counter treatment in pharmacies and online. A simple Google search will take you to numerous websites where you can order the sticks.