Silver is precious not only for its beauty and monetary value, but it may also have significant benefits in fighting off bacterial infections. Although silver is not new in the medical world—Hippocrates described its use in wound care as far back as 400 BC—the reason silver is so effective in infection control has only recently been identified.
Turns out it is not the silver itself that is antimicrobial, Raul Brizuela, president and CEO of Argentum Medical, told MD+DI. Rather, it is the silver ions that are released when it is exposed to moisture. What makes these ions so effective in fighting infection is that they attack bacteria with multiple modes of action, he said.
Brizuela explains that these actions include the silver ion binding to the bacteria cell wall so that nutrients cannot pass through. Because the ions bind to the cell wall, oxygen also cannot get in. The ion then penetrates the cell wall and binds with its DNA and nucleus, making it impossible for the cell to replicate.
“It’s starved, it can’t breathe, and it can’t replicate, therefore it can’t thrive,” Brizuela said.
Two recent studies have borne this out. The first is an independent study conducted by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program. The study “Use of Silver Nylon Dressing Following Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Decreases the Postoperative Infection Rate,” showed a 54 % reduction in superficial and deep prosthetic joint infections (PJIs) following total joint replacement, when Silverlon dressings were used in place of standard dressings made of Xeroform and gauze. The incidence of infection was 3.9% in the Silverlon group, compared with 8.4% in the control group. No deep PJIs occurred in the Silverlon group, but there were 12 cases in the control group.
The study included 309 consecutive total joint replacement (TJR) cases in the Silverlon group and 525 consecutive TJR cases in the control group. The same two surgeons performed all surgeries and study patients were followed for 12 months to identify PJIs.
A second study was conducted by the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital. The study, “Reduction in Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections Correlated With the Introduction of a Novel Silver-Plated Dressing for Central Venous Catheters and Maintained for 6 Years” demonstrated a 46% decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) per 1000 catheter days when the Silverlon dressings were used. A control group used chlorhexidine gluconate-impregnated sponge dressings.
An additional benefit is an estimated cost savings of $122,100 to $1,188,000 over the one-year study period at Tampa General Hospital when Silverlon dressings were used.
Since the study period, Tampa General Hospital has maintained the reduced CLABSI rate for six years by using Silverlon dressings in seven different ICUs, including medical, coronary care, neurological, burn, surgical trauma, cardiothoracic, and vascular.
Silverlon wound dressings are sustainable and can be worn up to seven days. They have a permanently plated metallic surface, which provides the antimicrobial benefits of silver without staining the skin and without increasing bioburden.