Silver in Wound Care—Friend or Foe?: A Comprehensive Review

Background: Due to its strong antimicrobial activity, silver is a commonly used adjunct in wound care. However, it also has the potential to impair healing by exerting toxic effects on keratinocytes and fibroblasts. The published literature on the use of silver in wound care is very heterogeneous, making it difficult to generate useful treatment guidelines.

Methods: A search of high-quality studies on the use of silver in wound care was performed on PubMed. A detailed qualitative analysis of published articles was performed to evaluate the evidence for the use of silver in infected wounds, clean wounds, burns, and over closed surgical incisions.

Results: Fifty-nine studies were included in this qualitative analysis. We found that, overall, the quality of the published research on silver is poor. While there is some evidence for short-term use of dressings containing nanocrystalline silver in infected wounds, the use of silver-containing dressings in clean wounds and over closed surgical incisions is not indicated. Negative-pressure wound therapy accelerates the healing of contaminated wounds, especially when silver is used as an adjunct. For burns, silver sulfadiazine slows healing and should not be used. Instead, nanocrystalline silver, or alternatives such as octenidine and polyhexanide, lead to less infection and faster healing.

Conclusions: In infected wounds, silver is beneficial for the first few days/weeks, after which nonsilver dressings should be used instead. For clean wounds and closed surgical incisions, silver confers no benefit. The ideal silver formulations are nanocrystalline silver and silver-coated polyurethane sponge for negativepressure wound therapy. Silver sulfadiazine impairs wound healing. Proper use of silver-containing dressings is essential to optimize wound healing. (Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open 2019;7:e2390; doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002390; Published online 9 August 2019.)