Saline water cleans wound better than soap and water which is the standard practice of wound cleaning before surgery. But according to the researchers, this method is less effective than using saline water.
The findings could lead to significant cost savings, especially in developing countries where open fractures are particularly common.
As part of the study, 2,400 people with open arm or leg fractures had their wounds cleaned with either soap and water, or a saline water solution, and one of three different levels of water pressure.
Patients were monitored to see who would need to have an additional operation within 12 months because of infection or problems with wound healing.
The researchers found that very low water pressure was an acceptable, low-cost alternative for washing out open fractures, and that the reoperation rate was higher in the group that used soap.
“These findings may have important implications for the care of patients with open fractures worldwide since developing countries deal with a disproportionate number of cases,” one of the study’s co-authors Edward Harvey from McGill University noted.
“Most of the time we were using soap and water with a high pressure delivery system to clean the wound, but now we don’t, and that makes the best practice much cheaper.”
The study involved patients across 41 sites in the US, Canada, Australia, Norway and India.