Tap Water Versus Sterile Normal Saline in Wound Swabbing: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial

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PURPOSE:The use of tap water as a wound-cleansing agent is becoming more common in clinical practice, especially in community settings. The aim of this study was to test whether there are differences in wound infection and wound healing rates when wounds are cleansed with tap water or sterile normal saline.DESIGN:Double-blinded randomized controlled trial.SUBJECTS AND SETTING:Subjects were recruited from the community nursing service of a local hospital in Hong Kong. The target sample included subjects who were aged 18 years or more, and receiving chronic or acute wound care treatment.METHODS:Subjects were randomly assigned to wound cleansing with tap water (experimental group) or sterile normal saline (control group). Wound assessment was conducted at each home visit, and an assessment of wound size was conducted once a week. The main outcome measures, occurrence of a wound infection and wound healing, were assessed over a period of 6 weeks.RESULTS:Twenty-two subjects (11 subjects in each group) with 30 wounds participated in the study; 16 wounds were managed with tap water cleansing and 14 were randomly allocated to management with the sterile normal saline group. Analysis revealed no significant difference between the experimental and control groups in the proportions of wound infection and wound healing.CONCLUSIONS:Study findings indicate that tap water is a safe alternative to sterile normal saline for wound cleansing in a community setting.

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