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September 1966

Bacteriology of Large Human Burns Treated With Silver Nitrate

Author Affiliations

From the Washington University School of Medicine and the Barnes Hospital, St. Louis.

Arch Surg. 1966;93(3):456-466. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1966.01330030086019

INFECTION of the wounds is responsible for much if not most of the morbidity and mortality that attends thermal injuries. In addition, the conversion of superficial burns to subdermal injuries by bacteria is a common phenomenon that sharply increases morbidity. Therefore, improvement in burn mortality and morbidity rates must necessarily depend upon the development of reliable and safe methods of inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria on the wounds. None of the antibiotics that have been tried during the past 30 years have been consistently effective in accomplishing this; the achievement of true asepsis in burn wound therapy is logistically impracticable, if not theoretically impossible, although some have attempted it.1

The search for a satisfactory way to achieve bacteriostasis on burn wounds led to clinical trials of 0.5% silver nitrate solution, an agent previously known to be highly effective in vitro and in smaller infected wounds of various types.