Some bandages use silver to help reduce wound bacteria count.

Silver has been used for its antibacterial properties for thousands of years, yet in healing wounds, this element can also be strong enough to kill off the healthy surrounding tissues in the process. However, recent research has shown that silver’s good properties may be able to outweigh the bad, if packaged properly.

How does silver work?

Silver’s molecular makeup allows it to stop most bacteria from creating chemical bonds. The bacteria, once in contact with the silver, cannot multiply, and are broken down due to active silver’s properties. Silver is so good at providing bacterial protection that many clinics and hospitals use silver-based surgical tools as well as furniture to help limit the spread of any disease.

Because silver works at the molecular level, it is able to stop many superbugs and bacterial strains. According to the Silver Institute, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a deadly staph germ that is resistant to many other hospital-grade antibiotics, can often be wiped out through silver-based dressings.

What are some current silver-based dressings?

While older wound dressings were bulky, which caused some issues with how fibroblasts in the skin would heal, thinner gauzes, bandages and pads that have been infused with silver can provide much of the antibacterial agents of the element, yet damage few, if any, healthy cells surrounding the wound. A 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, found that when bandage included only minute levels of silver, they still could provide extremely potent doses of bacteria protection. One bandage studied killed more than 99.9 percent of bacteria, but only used 0.4 percent of the silver as other silver bandages of the past. According to tests, thinner silver wound dressings are able to get away with very small doses of silver because of how localized the dressings can get to the wound.

“In a commercial dressing, the silver is part of the bandage that is placed on the wound surface,” explained Nicholas Abbott, a chemical and biological engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, to ScienceDaily.” We envision this material becoming incorporated into the wound; the cells will grow over it and it will eventually decay and be absorbed into the body, much like an absorbable suture.”

One current silver-based dressing that may help speed up wound healing while not damaging the fibroblasts that surround it is the Aquacel line from ConvaTec. Made from layers of hydrofiber, the silver-infused dressing provides the silver-based bacterial protection while also absorbing wound discharge.

Nano-based technology

Nanotechnology was once firmly in the realm of physical scientists, but recent studies have proven that the minute particles in question can also have a place in health care. A 2014 study that was published in a February issue of Advanced Materials found that nanofilms that contain nanoparticles can help reduce the rate of wound bacteria more than 100 times than conventional dressings that do not include silver. During the study, this micro-technology was assistive in healing wound infections.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.