Saline water cleans wounds more effectively than soap and water

Saline water cleans wounds more effectively than soap and waterFor years cleaning a wound prior to surgery with soap and water has been normal practice, but recent findings suggest that saline water is more effective in cleaning a wound. The findings, which came from researchers at McMaster University, Canada, uncovered that not only is saline more effective at cleaning, but it is more cost effective as well, especially in developing countries.

The study included 2,400 people with open arm or leg fractures and had their wounds cleaned either with typical soap and water, saline water solution or one of three different levels of water pressure. The patients were then monitored for up to 12 months to see who would require additional surgery due to infection from improper wound healing. The researchers found the re-operative rate was highest in the group who received the soap and water cleansing.


“There has been a lot of controversy about the best way to clean the dirt and debris from serious wounds with bone breaks. All wounds need to be cleaned out – a process known as debridement – but evidence shows that cleaning wounds with soap was not better than just water, which was unexpected,” explained Dr. Mohit Bhandari, principal investigator.

“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. Most of the time we were using soap and water with a high pressure delivery system to clean the wound, but now we don’t, and that makes the best practice much cheaper,” added co-author Dr. Edward Harvey.

Participants were from various countries, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Norway and India. The researchers suggest their findings are particularly useful in developing countries where they see higher fracture rates.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.