When Can You Skip Sutures and Close a Wound with Superglue?

superglue vs. sutures

What made doctors think they could throw out their sutures, and just superglue wounds back together? In this post we’ll see it was an accidental consequence of WWII. While rarely does something useful emerge from war, in the case of super glue… it did.

Our story begins with those airborne cowboys of WWII. You know the ones. Barely out of high school and still thin enough to squeeze into the cockpit of a flying sports car. Along with their planes, aircraft going by names like “Marine Corsair” and “P-51 Mustang,” these pilots signed up for a crash course in adulthood. Along the way, they literally embodied their experiences… in a very tangible sense.

Superglue Was Found By Mistake

During WW II, pilots often had broken shards of their clear acrylic canopy implant in their arms and face. This shrapnel was produced when bullets tore through their Plexiglas-like cockpits. In time, most flyers completely forgot about these foreign bodies. The pieces of embedded acrylic never seemed to cause problems, so they went unnoticed, and were almost never removed.
sutures vs. superglue
Years later during routine physicals and imaging studies (X-rays), physicians at the Veterans Administration noticed the fragments, and noted they weren’t dissolving or festering out. This was unusual. It seemed the body wasn’t reacting to them at all.  The finding paved the way for using acrylic based adhesives to close small and medium sized wounds. Reasoning that if solid acrylics weren’t causing an immune response, perhaps its liquid form wouldn’t either. They were correct, and the rest is history.
superglue vs. sutures
This video shows you how to use Dermabond, but the same technique is used to apply superglue. The advantage to Dermabond is that it is easier to apply than superglue. The advantage of superglue is you can find it anywhere. Dermabond? – not so much!
Super glue is very similar in molecular structure to surgical adhesives, and you can use it as an alternative to stitching. If the cut you’re closing has minimal tension on the edges when you pinch them together, and you can keep the super glue from filling in the wound with a giant blob of glue, then it can be used in place of sutures – almost regardless of the lacerations length.

The Trick to Using Superglue and Dermabond

In order to super glue wounds closed effectively, the trick to remember is to keep the superglue topical, and to avoid using it if the wound edges don’t come together easily. In that instance, super glue or even Dermabond is unlikely to hold. And so you’ll have to put in stitches to prevent the wound from pulling apart later.
sutures vs superglue
Take Home Message:  Sutures are not always needed. Often you can get by with Dermabond, but you really don’t need to buy that product. It’s much easier to find Krazy Glue, Gorilla Glue, or just super glue wounds back into shape. Dermabond is available on the web, and its applicator is easy to use. And while super glue and the others can be found almost anywhere, sometimes their thin nozzles can make them difficult to apply. Which is really the only reason to buy Dermabond if you are considering it. Here are some other options for closing wounds.
The Above Has Been Adapted from:

2nd Book

To learn more about putting in stitches or closing wounds with superglue, please click on the book image above.


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