Nanocrystalline silver dressings in wound management: a review.
This paper describes the properties of nanocrystalline silver products (Acticoat) and their applications and examines available evidence supporting their use in wound management. Acticoat utilizes nanotechnology to release nanocrystalline silver crystals. Acticoat releases 30 times less silver cations than silversulfadiazine cream or 0.5% silver nitrate solution but more of the silver released (by Acticoat). Silver-impregnated slow-release dressings release minute concentrations of silver which are quickly bound up by the chloride in the wound exudate. While extrapolations from in vitro and animal studies are cautious, evidence from these studies suggests Acticoat is: effective against most common strains of wound pathogens; can be used as a protective covering over skin grafts; has a broader antibiotic spectrum activity; and is toxic to keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Animal studies suggest a role for nanocrystalline silver in altering wound inflammatory events and facilitation of the early phase of wound healing. Quality human clinical trials into nanocrystalline silver are few. However, evidence suggests using Acticoat in wound management is cost effective, reduces wound infection, decreases the frequency of dressing changes and pain levels, decreases matrix metalloproteinase activity, wound exudate and bioburden levels, and promotes wound healing in chronic wounds. Although there is no in vivo evidence to suggest nanocrystalline silver is toxic to human keratinocytes and fibroblasts, there is in vitro evidence to suggest so; thus these dressings should be used cautiously over epithelializing and proliferating wounds. Future clinical research, preferably randomized controlled trials into nanocrystalline silver technology, may provide clinicians a better understanding of its applications in wound management.