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wiseGEEK: Can I Really Use Superglue to Close my Wound?

Using superglue to close a wound is possible, but not advisable. While using glue that you can buy in the store to close a wound would work, it also may produce extreme skin irritation and skin death when purchased in over-the-counter form. There are medical superglues that are often used in place of stitches to close certain types of wounds .

Superglue is made of a substance called cyanoacrylate. When it comes into contact with liquids like water, it forms a plastic mesh that will keep skin, or anything someone wants glued, neatly bonded together. Regular superglue has methyl alcohol, however, which creates heat in order to produce the bonding effect. Using this type of glue to close a wound in deep tissue could result in killing some of the surrounding skin cells.

It is true that the US military used superglue to close wounds during the Vietnam War. Most of the studies of problems resulting from use were recorded during this time. It is likely that doctors did save many lives with this procedure, however, because it gave them time to transport patients to M.A.S.H. units where they could have needed surgery.

Today, many

medical facilities do use a medical form of superglue to close a wound, but only of certain types of wounds. This medical form includes cyanoacrylate, but also butyl, isobutyl, or octyl. These are thought to help prevent bacteria from infecting the wound. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the use of a few types of glue to close wounds.

Deciding to use medical superglue to close a wound is usually based on the type of wound. A long straight skin wound where the tissue naturally flaps back together is the ideal choice. Generally, it is not appropriate to use it to close a wound that is deep and reaches far into the body. Even with the medical form, some skin deterioration or irritation may occur and delay healing.

The best application of superglue to close a wound is on minor skin lesions. For someone who is not a medical professional, this should be a last choice decision, rather than a first choice one. It is far better to allow an expert to decide how to treat a wound when it is severe and bleeding may be occurring internally.

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